Warming center

Ken Powell and Theo Freezerking help to clean up the grounds at the warming center.

Two things struck me about the 80 people who have sought shelter at Payson’s new homeless warming center.

First, we are all so very close to falling off that same edge — a lost job, an illness, a family crisis or mental health setback.

And second, those who desperately need help are eager to help.

Giving back comes naturally to some homeless clients who come to the Payson warming center. They often stay extra time to help. Madeline and Jasper have taken linens to the laundromat.

“Our tent was ransacked and all my records were destroyed. I help so the center will stay open,” said Madeline.

Jeremy R. has been doing odd jobs around the center and driving others to the facility.

Ken helps clean the bunkhouse every morning and helps cook dinner. He has years of experience as a cook at the Grand Canyon and in Los Angeles. He said, “Be sure to tell people that the Church on the Street helped me in my difficulties. I went through their program.”

Mike encourages the younger clients and helps them line up jobs at the landscaping business where he works. He said being homeless happened suddenly. “I’m grateful for this place and will be leaving once I get ahead again.”

Another client, also named Ken, was sleeping in his car when he parked it in the wrong place. It was towed. “I couldn’t pay the $500 to get it back.” So he lost the car and now is homeless. He and Theo help rake around the property at Mount Cross church.

Others take out the trash and clean the rooms.

As folks spend time at the shelter, gradually they share their stories. Many were living from paycheck to paycheck until something happened — they got sick, couldn’t work, lost their job, couldn’t pay rent and became homeless. Some have Social Security disability, but even that won’t cover rent or deal with unexpected bills. A few are traveling through town, living in their car until they can get to a place with family.

As one seven-month pregnant woman said, “This is amazing. We didn’t know such places existed around here.”

Clients only need to respond to a few questions when they first check-in — name, date of birth, veteran status, medical history and reason for homelessness. There are some basic rules to follow and a few people unwilling to do so, have been asked to leave. This is a place for those who want to be safe and warm. Those who stay appreciate the meal and a place to sleep.

Center volunteers find many don’t know how to use basic resources, or how to get help from the community. They can’t find a job without having a phone or address. Some struggle to read or fill out forms.

The Payson Homeless Initiative and Homeless Veterans Initiative opened the warming center Dec. 16. Since that time, they have had more than 80 people enter the doors, some for a hot meal and shower, others for a warm place to sleep. Men account for two-thirds of the clients with 11 homeless veterans.

Volunteers help with check-in, cooking, keeping the clothes and food closet in order, washing linens, and monitoring the bunkhouse at night.

The warming center board invites the community to stop by, have a meal and talk with some of the clients. The biggest need remains for volunteers to monitor the bunkhouse at night. Can you offer one day a month for four hours?

For monitoring, contact Neal Worthington, 706-510-9589; for intake, contact Skyler Brice, 928-970-2041; for help with food, contact Gary Bedsworth, 928-970-1928.

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