City unites with churches, volunteers to warm bodies, boost morale
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
As temperatures began to drop in the 1930s on Thursday, January 6, the first visitors began to arrive. Although the temporary warming shelter wouldn’t open for an hour, the two homeless men – both carrying their belongings in plastic bags – were greeted at the University’s Baptist Church on Jordan Lane.
Inside the spacious basement of the church, volunteers unfolded cots. Others worked on assembling the âWarming Shelter Hereâ exterior panels.
The volunteers, each sporting a smile on their masked face, worked quickly.
âBack to the Futureâ was shown on a large-screen TV in the corner as the two men, still in thick coats, watched from adjacent sofas. Soon after, another volunteer brought several plastic bags stuffed with blankets.
The kitchen, right after the TV room, was well stocked with food. Some are cooked in homes, others bought by volunteers.
The effort to save lives on a cold night was not accomplished by just a handful of individuals, but rather by a dedicated network of community development workers, volunteers, churches and organizations with purpose. non-profit like First stop and the Northern Alabama Coalition for the Homeless (NACH).
âWe really can’t thank our community partners enough,â said Scott Erwin, director of community development. âNone of this would be possible without them. “
âThe first question the priest and the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’
Butâ¦ the good Samaritan reversed the question, “If I don’t stop to help this man, what’s going to happen to him?” -Martin Luther King jr.
Organizers predicted 50 to 70 people would seek refuge in the shelter as the troughs hit teenagers, with single-digit wind chills.
Some would come just because it’s close. Some because they have nowhere to go.
This was the second year Reverend Rose Veal Eby has helped organize the warming shelter. When asked why this effort was so critical, she offered a dark story.
âLast year one person was unaware and lost four toes,â she said. “So, this is really important.”
Like Erwin, Veal Eby praised the efforts of local churches, including the Church of the Nativity, where she is a outreach missionary.
âThey give blankets, food, coffee, money and help to crack,â she said. âParishioners pick up food, drop it off, and pack supplies. “
âAs long as we love, we serve; as long as we are loved by others, I would almost say that we are indispensable; and no man is useless as long as he has a friend. Robert Louis Stevenson
In previous years, a heated shelter was set up at the Max Luther Community Center. This is the first year that the University Baptist Church has offered its facilities, which community development officials truly saw as a godsend.
Like Veal Eby, Peavy recognized the efforts of local churches and volunteers, as well as the leadership of city government, Erwin, and community development staff.
âThere are over a dozen people who helped put this in place,â he said. âIt’s not perfect, but this place doesn’t exist.
While not perfect, the refuge provides temporary warmth to a part of the Huntsville population that is often overlooked or ignored. More importantly, Veal Eby sees it as a way to get away from his own reality for a short time.
âI’m going to go out later and win some prizes,â she said. “Tomorrow we are playing bingo.”
To learn more about how to help the homeless in Huntsville, visit the websites of First stop, the Northern Alabama Coalition for the Homeless (NACH), Church of the Nativity and that of the City Community development office.