COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The only 24/7 warming center in the University District will close Monday – and the city has yet to find a new location.
The warming shelter at the Summit on 16th United Methodist Church will close at 6 p.m. Monday due to safety concerns, Nora Gerber with the University District Organization announced at a University Area Commission meeting Wednesday. Gerber said the church asked the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless, which operates warming centers across the city, to move the center elsewhere.
The closure means the coalition will operate just one warming center in Columbus, the coalition confirmed.
Before Gerber’s announcement, Columbus Police Officer Mark Hauenstein alluded to the closure in his report to the commission, saying there would be “some news coming up” about the center – which has been the topic of several police reports to the commission since December.
“The past couple of days, I’ve been dealing with complaints about the warming center,” Hauenstein said. “I’ve been on the phone nonstop, I’ve been through emails nonstop.”
Most of the complaints, Hauenstein said, have been from Ohio State University students who live near the center – or their parents.
Columbus police could not provide the number of complaints they had received related to the warming center since December, but at the University Area Commission’s January 18 meeting, Hauenstein said there had been 15 complaints in the previous week.
According to unofficial police reports, there have been 10 calls for service to the warming center in 2023, one of which was for a stabbing last week.
The church could not be reached for comment.
Gerber told commissioners the city is searching for an alternative place for the center, emphasizing that it will likely be in the University District.
“This is where most of our folks hail from and are staying here,” Gerber said. “If there is a new location, say on the west side or Whitehall, we probably would not see our residents move to that new location. They will probably just stay here in the University District.”
The Columbus Coalition for the Homeless operates a warming center at Short North Church at 25 W. Fifth Ave. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. The coalition said in an email that the other warming shelter it operated at the Broad Street United Methodist Church was closed for “the same concerns” as at the University District center.