As a difficult winter approaches, one of Englewood’s biggest homeless outreach groups is seeking help. Giving Heart, at 4358 South Broadway, is looking for donations of cash and winter gear like …
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As a difficult winter approaches, one of Englewood’s biggest homeless outreach groups is seeking help.
Giving Heart, at 4358 South Broadway, is looking for donations of cash and winter gear like coats and sleeping bags to help those without homes endure the cold.
“The weather has been really nice, so our guests are mostly holding their own, but what happens when it gets bad?” said Donna Zimmerman, the center’s director. “Where will they go?”
The Severe Weather Shelter Network, which in most years opens church basements for unhoused people on cold and stormy nights, is switching to motel vouchers this winter because COVID-19 restrictions preclude their normal arrangements.
“There are only so many vouchers to go around,” said Angie Harpster, who does administrative work at Giving Heart. “They’re prioritized for families and people with disabilities, so a lot of folks are out of luck on cold nights.”
Giving Heart fills a lot of roles for the unhoused. Guests can send and receive mail, access the internet, charge cell phones, pick up hygiene supplies, get vouchers to purchase government IDs, use lockers to store belongings, and pick up donated clothes and shoes.
“They’re angels,” said James Medlin, who has been living on the streets since about the beginning of the pandemic. On Nov. 17, he was heading back to his campsite loaded down with a new pair of shoes, a new jacket and a boxed lunch.
“Life just feels like it’s on pause right now,” said Medlin, who said he’s been working construction gigs to get by while he saves up for an apartment. “But the people here are so kind, so generous, so caring — it makes all the difference in my life. And a lot of other people’s, too.”
The center’s visitation has stayed fairly consistent, Harpster said, with about 30 people visiting over the course of a day on nice days, or as many as 50 or 60 when the weather turns bad.
The center is also seeking more volunteers to help with a variety of tasks, the biggest being helping prepare lunches in the kitchen.
Zimmerman said she isn’t yet sure what tightening COVID-19 restrictions will mean for the center, though they will likely switch back to to-go meals instead of communal lunches.
“When the government tries to divide up which businesses are ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential,’ I can tell you that we are absolutely essential,” Zimmerman said. “Being able to get clean is essential. Getting warm clothes is essential. People need us and we’ll do everything we can to be here for them.”
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