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Numbers down at cold weather shelter

April 22, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

Terri Baker's spirits are up because the numbers are down a little for homeless people using the REACH Inc. Cold Weather Shelter this season.

"More people got jobs and then they got housing," said the director of the shelter at 148 W. Franklin St.

Although the average nightly figure of 30 people was about the same as last year, Baker said there were encouraging changes in the makeup of those who use the shelter.

"About 150 different people used the shelter, and that is down a little from last year," Baker said.

There were more women this year, and more families that came in were referred to other agencies.

Another factor in the declining use this year was a milder winter, but Baker believes the local job market was the principal reason.

"There were a lot more success stories this year," Baker said.

The one variable keeping the number from dropping further is addiction and it effects on people, Baker said.

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Volunteers worked Friday packing, cleaning and transporting perishable food items to local shelters and food banks.

The shelter will officially close for the 1999-2000 season Monday at 7 a.m.

"We're staying open a little longer because of the rain. ... The rain brings them in," Baker said.

Rainy weather was forecast through the weekend.

With the cold weather shelter activities on "vacation" until fall, REACH is planning other activities to help meet year-round needs of people in the community.

On April 29, REACH caregivers will help people in the community with small projects. Individuals and youth groups are encouraged to sign up for a project that suits their needs.

Baker said REACH is also looking for donations of old fans and air conditioners for people who will need them when the weather gets hot.

Transportation volunteers are always needed to take people to the grocery store or to medical appointments, Baker said.

The needs for such transportation translate into about 10 more volunteers, Baker said.

On June 13 from 5 to 9 p.m., REACH is having a Shoney's Celebrity Servers Night. Volunteers are being sought to serve meals, seat guests, circulate information or even be dunked in a dunking booth.

Baker said all tips given that night will be donated to REACH for needs such as eviction prevention, food, medication, supplies for home repairs and emergency housing placements.

"The shelter will reopen on Oct. 29, and already we have churches to staff the shelter for nearly every day except during the Christmas holidays," Baker said.

Volunteers to make lunches are still needed, she said.

REACH stands for Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless. Housed by the Hebron Mennonite Church in Paramount, REACH can be reached at 301-733-2371.

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