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Hands Together volunteers provide cold-weather shelter for those in need in Arlington
MARYSVILLE — Hands Together of Arlington provided cold-weather shelter for 24 different homeless people from November of last year through March of this year, and as early as Nov. 4, Pastor Deena Jones of the Arlington United Church saw the need in the community again.
“There were seven homeless people hanging out in the gazebo in Legion Park,” Jones said. “I gave them all sack lunches from the Brown Bag Brigade. Our policy is that it has to be below 32 degrees for more than three hours before we set up the shelter. We keep a close eye on the weather forecasts, but things can change so quickly that we don’t have enough volunteers or prior notice to make it happen.”
Although Hands Together represents a partnership between five Arlington churches and local service organizations including the Kiwanis and Lions, its demanding hours can leave it short-staffed. A minimum of two volunteers must be on site at all times to supervise both the homeless people and the trailer full of supplies, including 24 mattresses and blankets, from 8 p.m. through 7 a.m. on each night that the portable shelter is in operation.
With those 11 hours divided into three shifts, that’s six volunteers who need to be available every night that the shelter is up and running. From November of 2010 through March of 2011, that added up to 33 nights, during which the shelter provided a total of 122 beds to homeless people.
“If everybody on our list of volunteers is needed for a Saturday night of manning the shelter, that doesn’t leave anyone to conduct our worship activities the following Sunday,” Jones said. “They’re predicting similar weather this winter as we had last winter.”
Jones noted that the demand for the shelter’s resources had increased from its first season in service, from December of 2009 through March of 2010, during which it was open for 25 nights and saw 13 different homeless people.
“The easiest part is feeding them,” Jones said. “All of us ladies love to cook, and The Lord’s Kitchen provides us with soup on different nights. What we need are volunteers who can stay awake to watch over the homeless. A lot of them don’t like regular shelters, especially if they’re victims of domestic violence. I love that this is a giving community, and that so many people want to donate things to us, but the most important thing we need is more warm bodies to keep this going.”
For more information on Hands Together, call Jones at 360-435-3259.