When people who have regular jobs hear cold icy weather is coming, thoughts run through their head: Do we have bread and milk? Should we put salt the driveway for the morning just in case? Am I going to make it to work? Will school be canceled?
Here at the Love Wins Community Engagement Center, our worries are different: Does everyone have a sleeping bag? Do we have enough hats? Did we give out enough hand warmers? Where are these people going to sleep tonight?
So on Wednesday when we heard nasty weather was coming, we started trying to help our community members to prepare. We handed out socks, the few sleeping bags we had, hand warmers, gloves and hats. When there were no more gloves, we gave them socks for their hands.
Some of our people go to the shelters, but quite a few don’t, and those folks would be sleeping outside. It was difficult to watch them walk out Wednesday afternoon, knowing we had done all we could to get them prepared to get through the night. The staff members had decided that we were going to do whatever it took to be open for them the next morning. They just had to get through the night.
When I woke up on January 4 to a snowy landscape, I knew I was gonna to have to walk the 2 miles to work. Our people were gonna show up, and someone needed to be there.
I started walking. It was a cold windy morning and not many people were out and about. There wasn’t much traffic and what was out was moving at a snails pace.
When I rounded the turned at Love Wins there were no foot prints in the snow, but there was one car in the parking lot with 4 community members sitting in it, waiting for me to get here. I go through the door and plugged in the coffee and the hot water kettle for hot chocolate. Then I took a breath and shed the 4 layers of clothing I was wearing.
People were coming, and they were going to be cold and hungry – my thoughts turned to starting breakfast. Something hot, something quick, and something heavy… Oatmeal! I made it with milk and coconut cream, and then added some cinnamon, brown sugar, and a little butter.
MaRanda showed up 15 mins before opening time with a ton of coats people had donated – good, because we were going to need them!
“Open the doors! Let ‘em in!”, she told me, and so I did. I ran to front and slung the door open. Only six people walked through, but boy were they happy to see us there! And we were just as happy to see them!
Throughout the day more and more people would come through. I don’t think I had gotten and given so many hugs in my life. It was a warm feeling to see our folks coming through the door saying, “I knew ya’ll would be open!” and for us we knew we had helped someone survive a really cold wet night. And the next morning, when they woke up cold and wet, they knew we would be there for them.
Homelessness doesn’t get a snow day. So neither do we.