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Churches open their doors as warming shelters

Cedar warming shelter offers beds and boxes for belongings.

Sharyl Brown of Jewels Helping Hands serves as day supervisor at the recently opened Cedar warming shelter in the former New Apostolic Church, and also helps at three other church warming shelters—Liberty Park and St. Paul's United Methodist, Knox Presbyterian and Morning Star Baptist.

Along with logging in the clients, she receives donations of clothing and blankets at the Cedar location for distribution to other locations.

Sharyl pointed out that not all the guests are homeless people seeking shelter from the streets.

Sharyl Brown

One man called during the cold snap when his furnace went out, and he needed to be somewhere warm to stay. Later he realized his pipes were frozen and needed to be repaired.

Volunteers connected him to CHAS and Pioneer Human Services, which helped him contact his insurance agency. They also drove him home to take pictures of the damage, said Sharyl.

For four people who came to the warming shelter, the Cedar center was the step they needed for them to decide to enter in-patient treatment for mental health care. Cedar center volunteers now call and check in on them to be sure they are still in treatment and receiving the help they need.

"For many, it's just a matter of being somewhere safe, having people believe in them and providing them with the support they need, rather than leaving them outside with no support," she said.

"It's more effective to assist 20 people than it is to help more," said Sharyl, who started a peer program at Camp Hope, where she built resources and relationships.

Each of the church warming shelters need volunteers, donations and meal trains, with volunteers making, bringing and serving food.

As a substance use disorder professional, Sharyl went to college to be an addiction counselor, but after volunteering with Julie Garcia and Jewels Helping Hands for several years, she developed a passion working with people who are experiencing homelessness.

"I left my career to be here, because God spoke clearly to me that this was where God wanted me to be," Sharyl  said.

"When I started at Camp Hope, Julie told me that all the people were my clients. It was my job to find help for them. Every day I pulled up to camp and I said, 'God, I'm not capable. I'm not.'

"No human is capable," Sharyl  continued, "but look at what God has done. I'm just grateful the churches opened their doors to be warming shelters, to give people the love, compassion and the safe space that we all deserve."

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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, March 2024