Friday, January 29, 2010

Sacramento's Trinity Cathedral offers haven to homeless

Pics to be added later; I'm in a rush.  I love getting good press for what we do!


By Jennifer Garza The Sacramento Bee

Published: Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010 - 12:00 am
Page 1B

The homeless people who walk through the doors of Trinity Cathedral in midtown Sacramento have faith in the church, the only one in the area to offer them a hot meal and a roof over their heads.

Since mid-December, the homeless have escaped the wet and cold for a warm sleeping bag on the floor of the church hall twice a week. A slice of heaven on earth, said one.

"You have no idea how much that means," said Ronnie Holiday, who has been on the streets for years. "They're going to be blessed for doing this, I'll tell you that."

No other church runs a program like the one at Trinity Cathedral, homeless advocates said.

To abide by the city's camping ordinance, the Episcopal church stays open only two nights in a row during rainy weather.

"Is it legal? I don't know," said Jerry Pare, operations manager. "We're doing it because it's the right thing to do."

He said church leaders notified neighbors about their plans and have not heard any complaints.

City officials said the shelter doesn't violate the camping ordinance. "Because they are being sheltered inside, the outside camping ordinance does not apply," said Amy Williams, a city spokeswoman, in an e-mail.

At Trinity, parishioners donate money for food. On a recent night, they fed nearly 100 at a dinner prepared in the church kitchen – spaghetti, salad, bread, and cookies for dessert – followed the next morning by a breakfast of hot cereal and raisin toast.

"Jesus said take care of the poor, it's not much more complicated than that," said Kirstin Paisley, a church volunteer. "This makes the Gospel more real to me."

Church leaders became concerned about people sleeping on the street as temperatures dipped in December. They met with the leaders of Safeground, which organizers call a movement by homeless people for homeless people.

The "safe ground" campaign began last spring after more than 100 people were forced to leave a tent city on property owned by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

Trinity Cathedral is helping fill the void.

"What they've done is wonderful," said David Moss, a retired United Methodist pastor who now volunteers with Safe Ground. "They've given us the chance to show other churches that we can be responsible."

Other congregations are considering similar programs, said Moss. Some are reluctant because they already host homeless families in a program called Family Promise. He said others have expressed concerns about their neighbors, property and safety.

"I understand they may be a little afraid of the commitment," Moss said. "We are asking them to open their doors to 100 people they don't know."

The Safe Ground organizers rely on teamwork. Every afternoon at 3 p.m, they meet at Loaves & Fishes to determine where the homeless will sleep that night. "There's safety in numbers," said Chuck Rogers, who cooks for the group.

If it's raining, the group heads to the church. Once there, organizers get to work. Some work at the sign-in desk and others in the kitchen. Most, however, wait for dinner, which is typically served around 6 p.m. At 8, sleeping bags are handed out. Lights are out by 9. Women sleep in the classrooms upstairs and men sleep on the floor in the hall.

The next morning, the group eats at 6 a.m. Some clean the bathrooms and the facilities. They are gone in an hour.

Participants must abide by the rules. No drinking. No drugs. No fighting. No exceptions.

"Everyone looks out for each other," said Trish Allen.

Rogers, who said he was laid off from his job at Wal-mart two year ago, praises Trinity Cathedral.

"So many people see right through us or they see us as outcasts. They don't," he said, "and that means a lot."

1 comment:

Caminante said...

As we embark in two weeks with a Saturday lunch open to all, I have no idea where this may lead us but if it leads us to this type of outreach, then that is what we are to do. Prayers, prayers! And TBTG for what you all are doing.