COMEA (Cooperative Ministry for Emergency Assistance) was born out of dire necessity back in 1965. During this time, many churches in the downtown area were finding themselves overwhelmed with transients in need of assistance. The Church leaders eventually realized they were all helping the same individuals and quickly depleting their funds with emergency assistance rather than finding a solution to the problems. In September, 1982, an Advisory Council was developed and plans for a small emergency shelter were created. The building at 800 W 16th Street was secured just one day before the shelter opened. On December 2, 1982 the COMEA House opened its doors. It was sparely furnished with a couple of dinette tables and a few chairs. Its purpose was simply to provide folks with a warm place to stay the night and perhaps get a cup of coffee and a light snack. Clients provided their own bedding and slept on the floor. The shelter had a shower but residents also had to provide their own towels. Guests were allowed to stay for one night only unless referred by another agency requesting a longer stay.
In 1983, the Laramie County Emergency Management donated mattresses. Clients slept shoulder to shoulder on mattresses on the floor, accommodating 25-30 men and women. In 1988, bunk beds were acquired from the federal government surplus warehouse. Screens separated the men from the women and the shelter was able to provide for 21 men and six women. Extra mattresses were put on the floor after dinner in the dining room, bringing the total beds to 40.
Volunteers of the shelter noticed how clients were trying to fill up on coffee and cookies making it apparent that there was a need for more than just a snack. The shelter was able to serve soup in crock pots until 1983 when COMEA began renting additional space with a kitchen and could prepare more substantial meals.
Once again, changes were necessary as COMEA was finding that clients were needing several days or longer in order to get back on track. One day stays were no longer reasonable.
During the first month of operations, the shelter housed 66 men and 10 women. In the ten years that followed, COMEA sheltered nearly 20,000 men and women. In 2010 alone the COMEA provided over 18,000 shelter beds and 21,000 meals. Thirty-five families with young children have found a temporary home and supportive services at the COMEA House this past year and that number continues to grow.
Today, COMEA provides far more than emergency shelter, a hot shower, and a cup of soup. Residents meet with a case-manager to develop a plan of action. Together, they identify barriers and challenges, as well as the community resources available to help. Residents are fed a hot breakfast and a substantial evening meal. Clothing is available as well as all the necessary hygiene items. Employment classes, AA and Church are also available at COMEA.