Founded in 1988, COTS was an expression of two local residents’ concern for children and adults who were sleeping outdoors in culverts, dumpsters or other unsafe and unsuitable conditions. Laure Reichek and Mary Isaak raised money from private donors, enlisted the support of the faith community and fraternal organizations, educated the larger community, and monitored sleepovers at temporary shelters throughout the city.

Between the years of 1988 and 2004, COTS operated a winter-only shelter for single adults in multiple locations: first a bookstore basement, then in local churches, swim center, and later at an armory. COTS also operated a drop-in center located next to a community kitchen that dispensed free meals. Families were served with temporary shelter at an isolated building on the south side of town.

Thousands of homeless adults, families, and children were kept warm, safe, clean, and fed. However, these programs were less successful at helping people to regain housing. Many people continued to live on the streets or cycle in and out of the shelter system.

Today our organization has grown to include a variety of temporary shelter and permanent housing programs, services that assist people with their housing goals, and an array of community partnerships that help us meet clients where they’re at with dignity, care, and inclusivity. Read more about COTS vision for the future in our Five-Year Strategic Plan.