After a long winter of keeping the homeless people in Hillsdale warm, Share the Warmth of Hillsdale County will be closing its nights-only warming center for the season on March 31.
The warming center is located in the House of Refuge Church on E. Carleton Road, and has been operating seven days a week since Nov. 1. Giving the homeless in Hillsdale somewhere to go when it gets cold, volunteers have manned the center overnight, often providing a warm meal.
This winter there were 105 nights below freezing and 14 nights below zero degrees Fahrenheit in Hillsdale, Director of the Warming Center Penny Myers said. Cold nights like these put the homeless at increased risk for hypothermia. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, around seven hundred homeless people die annually in the United States from hypothermia.
“What a great thing you did for the community,” Mayor Adam Stockford said to Myers at Monday’s Hillsdale City Council meeting. “Considering this winter was the so-called polar vortex, it got so cold you may have literally saved lives this winter,” Stockford said.
In addition to providing basic shelter and food to the homeless, the warming center has free weekly laundry service for the guests and has donated pairs of boots to those in need. During the holiday season, the center even gave holiday stockings to their guests.
“One gentleman said to our volunteers, ‘This is the first time in years that I’ve felt loved or cared for’,” Myers said.
Freshman Mary Greco volunteered at the warming center during the winter, and said she was impressed by the compassion of the volunteers there.
“The people who I have volunteered with are so gracious, they really try to get to know the people who are staying,” Greco said. “You want to get to know them and care for them because they are human. We’re all human.”
Myers said the operation would not have been possible without the support of the community, and thanked everyone who got involved, including the city government.
“While these people are homeless, they are not any less citizens of our city,” Myers said. “Great cities are judged, not by the lack of needy people in their community, but by their capacity and compassion to care for them.”