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Warming shelter comes to a close, but ignites passion to help homeless

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Warming shelter comes to a close, but ignites passion to help homeless

By Christine Holmes, News Director

What started as an emergency solution to get Zanesville’s homeless out of the extreme cold turned into a winter full of fellowship and the ignition to keep the momentum growing.

“The way it came about was just spur of the moment,” said Kandice Longstreth, outreach coordinator for St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church. “It was cold, and to have homeless out there knowing they might freeze to death was unfathomable.”

It was mid-January and the temperature was well below freezing when Longstreth woke up in the middle of the night thinking about those struggling to keep warm.

“I had dogs in the house so they’d be warm. This isn’t right,” said Longstreth. “People are outside and dogs are in the house. That next morning, that’s when I made the call and said, ‘What can I do.’”

With the blessing of her church, Longstreth reached out to Tammy Clark of Homeless Hands of Zanesville.

“She said you will never believe this. She said I just told a friend yesterday I was going to call St. Thomas and see if they would open their basement,” said Longstreth. “It all happened all at the same time. It’s a God thing. It really is.”

So, the night of Jan. 21, the doors to Rosary Hall opened for the first time to the homeless.

“I just felt like this was what was supposed to be done,” said Longstreth. “I didn’t worry about anything. It’s all going to work out, and it has been an amazing journey.”

The first night, only about a handful showed. But as word got out about the warming shelter, along with its home-cooked meals and compassionate volunteers, the guests began to pour through the door.

“When they first came in, everybody was kind of kept to themselves,” said Longstreth. “They weren’t real sure about us, but they warmed up pretty quickly and it has become a family, that’s the only way I can think of it, really.”

Longstreth said the volunteers and guests bonded over the weeks to follow. Some even began attending church services at St. Thomas.

There was even a connection between people who never met through a jigsaw puzzle in the Rosary Hall.

Guests would work on the puzzle at night and then church members would also help out after mass.

“It ended up being finished by everybody that had come through here, so that was pretty neat,” said Longstreth.

In order to operate the warming shelter, it took volunteers all throughout the community.

“Everybody knows that there is a problem,” said Longstreth. “So many people wanted to do something, nobody knew what to do or how to do it.”

But that changed when Longstreth and Clark announced the opening of the warming shelter.

“It’s like the floodgates opened,” said Longstreth.

Members of Longstreth’s congregation, as well as those from other churches, and volunteers from Homeless Hands helped man the shelter each night.

Others donated money, meals, cots, hygiene products and even a night for haircuts.

“The community just rallied around so much,” said Longstreth. “The momentum was incredible.”

From Jan. 21 through March 8, the shelter was available whenever the temperatures fell below freezing.

Keeping the momentum going, Longstreth is already planning for next year. She hopes to create a coalition of churches and individuals to make the warming shelter more organized, possibly operating at a more permanent location or on a rotation.

Even though warmer weather is on its way, Longstreth isn’t done with her newfound mission to help the homeless.

“This ignited a passion in me,” said Longstreth. “I didn’t know I had this kind of passion for this. I had compassion, but to have the passion be ignited was a surprise to me.”

Throughout its eight week tenure, a total of 63 individuals utilized the warming shelter.

Many opened up to the volunteers about their lives, shedding a little light on the homeless culture in Zanesville.

Longstreth said one of the most common problems is the judgment the homeless face each day.

“The way people look at ‘em. You know, that they’re less than us, and they’re not. They just don’t have a roof,” said Longstreth.

She also noted that many face mental health issues that make them vulnerable.

But with the help of a caring community, Longstreth thinks their lives can improve.

“They need the benefit of this socialization, this acceptance, this dignity,” said Longstreth. “They need that all the time just like we do. They’re no different.”

1 Comment

One Response to “Warming shelter comes to a close, but ignites passion to help homeless”

  1. Dave Dicks on March 15th, 2019 11:53 pm

    Please, would consider it an honor to volunteer in anyway I could help. I’m retired truck driver, still holding a CDL license. My father volunteered staying nights at shelter on Putnam avenue. He helped with meals on wheels. He held blood drives for Red Cross. Since his passing I’ve had a strong desire to help serve our community. Thank you

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