• 52°

A warm place to go

By Melanie Ruberti

 

Melanie.ruberti@lagrangenews.com

 

A warm place to go

 

New warming center opens doors as temps continue to fall

 

LaGRANGE –  Mike’s home is under the bridge that runs across Hogansville Road near the Food Depot grocery store and Hill Street.

 

There is always a strong breeze blowing through the homeless man’s hovel – mainly because the “house” has no walls. There are no windows either. So when heavy rains moved through the area earlier this week, Mike’s “home” sprung to leak.

 

“I was wet … from head to toe … the clothes that I have on is all I have. I’m still drying out,” he said.

 

Mike, who did not want to use his last name, knew temperatures at night would soon be plummeting past the freezing mark. He did not want to take any chances and headed over to the new LaGrange – Troup County Warming Center at 150 Lukken Industrial Drive Thursday night.

 

“You got a choice between staying under a bridge, soaking wet and cold or being here,” Mike stated as he looked around the spacious, heated building. “It was a ‘no-brainer.’”

 

The recently renovated warming center is now housed in a new facility purchased by New Ventures Inc.

 

Homeless folks, like Mike, have a comfortable cot to sleep on covered with blankets and pillows, access to bathroom and shower facilities, are given a warm meal to fill their stomachs and can hang out in the “living room” and watch a big screen television There is also a large supply closet filled with clothes, hats, shoes, bedding and more.

 

Large, potted plants, freshly painted walls, new carpet, partitions used as “walls” and even some lighted Christmas decorations give the warming center a cozy feeling – just like being in a home.

 

The facility is made possible by members of the warming center committee, the Troup County Homeless Coalition, New Ventures, the Callaway Foundation, the city of LaGrange, the LaGrange Police Department, the Troup County Sheriff’s Office, Ark Refuge Ministries, countless sponsors and churches plus dozens of volunteers.

 

The warming center doors open any time the temperature dips below 40 degrees.

 

But despite the desperate need for a night time winter shelter, the facility still seems to be the best kept secret in town.

 

The building can accommodate 75 people. But since the center opened, three people is the most that have stayed in one night, volunteers said.

 

“When it is freezing cold at night, it becomes a life or death situation for people who don’t have any shelter,” said Nick Ethridge, a volunteer at the warming center. “If you don’t have a warming center, people will suffer.”

 

Even Mike admitted it has been hard convincing his friends to come in from the cold.

 

“There’s a lot of folks out there that don’t want to come here (warming center). I don’t know why,” he said.

 

Denna’ Muncy, president of the Troup County Homeless Coalition, believes the number of homeless guests at the center will begin to increase as the cold temperatures permanently settle in for winter.

 

“The New Ventures building is an amazing facility built from the passion and compassion of a

community seeing the need for our homeless population,” she stated via email. “… I believe what I like most about the center is that it brings back the old town values of taking care of others who are our neighbors. This county has a big heart and together we are able to spread

the hope of a better tomorrow for so many in need.”

 

Local businesses and agencies, as well as area law enforcement departments have information to connect people with coordinators at the warming center, Muncy said. There are also free modes of transportation to and from the New Ventures building.

 

“We have several pickup points throughout the county. They (homeless) simply need only be there and the drivers will transport them to the center,” she explained. “The following morning a driver will return them to the area of pickup and information is given where they can go for lunches, services and more.”

 

While the center is now used to shelter people from the cold, Muncy and others envision a place that provides a plethora of opportunities for their homeless guests in the near future.

 

“We hope one day to have a transition- to- work program,” she stated. “We know a goal for everyone, not just those who are homeless, is to have a home, employment and health care. We hope to partner with businesses and organizations that may be able to assist people as they transition out of homelessness.”

 

An idea that Mike hopes will become a reality soon.

 

“I’ll do what I can to help,” he said. “I praise God for this place (center). I hope more people come here too.

 

The LaGrange-Troup County Warming Center will be open Saturday night.

Anyone who needs a ride to the LaGrange- Troup County Warming Center can contact the LaGrange Housing Authority at 706-884-5032. If the office is closed, press #1 and someone will answer the call.

 

Volunteers and supplies for the warming center are needed as well.

 

Here is a list of items:

  • Linens (twin size)
  • Clothing
  • Shoes
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Deodorant
  • Chap Stick
  • Razors
  • Bibles (large print)
  • Notebooks
  • Pens

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.