Homeless not forgotten this Thanksgiving

By Kristen Rains

As students and faculty members welcome next week’s fall break and prepare to spend time with their families for the upcoming holiday, local homeless facilities open their doors and hearts to those less fortunate.

Major John Turner, corps. officer for the Salvation Army, 119 E. University, said that their homeless shelter is preparing a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings for Thanksgiving Day. Not only do they provide this dinner, but they are also preparing for the changing weather.

“We have 48 beds available, typically they are filled during the cold weather,” Turner said.

Turner also said that the Salvation Army doesn’t turn away people in need on bitter cold nights, no matter how full the shelter may get.

“It’s better to break a rule then to risk someone’s life,” Turner said.

In addition to the turkey dinner, Turner also said that an associate from U.S. Cellular comes to the shelter and offers guests the chance to call their relatives for free.

The Salvation Army isn’t the only institution offering assistance to the homeless this holiday season; the St. Jude Catholic Worker House, 317 S. Randolph, is also reaching out to those in need. The worker house has a soup kitchen 7 days a week at 11 a.m., 365 days a year. Ellen McDowell, a volunteer for the worker house, said that next Thursday’s soup kitchen meal will consist of a turkey and some other special dishes.

“The soup kitchen isn’t just for the homeless, but anyone who is hungry and in need of friendship,” Turner said.

Turner said that St. Jude Catholic Worker House operates entirely off of donations and volunteers. She said that on a day-to-day basis they can expect between 70 and 100 people, but the number tends to dwindle on Thanksgiving as a result of members of the homeless community going to their families.

“Our guests joke that this is the one day a year that their families can stand them,” Turner said.

In addition to the turkey dinner and a soup kitchen seven days a week, St. Jude also offers overnight accommodations to women and children only.

The Restoration Urban Ministries, 1213 Parkland Court, is another organization attempting to reach out to those in need. Ervin Williams, the executive director of the ministry, said that during the holidays churches come together to bring food for residents. The residents he’s referring to are those that the ministry houses.

“Restoration Urban Ministries offers 74 units in a motel for those in a transitional period,” Turner said.

Unlike the Salvation Army and St. Jude, Restoration does not offer an emergency shelter, but a long-term shelter for those who really want to make a change in their life away from homelessness. Williams said that their organization houses and educates the residents for a nine-month period. He also said that in addition to the food drive, they also give away furniture and toys for the holidays. Turner also expressed the desire to do more for the community.

“There is still a need for soup kitchens in the community; we hope to one day have one,” said Turner.