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Gift makes shelter a cool oasis for clients

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The Toledo Rotary Foundation paid to provide air conditioning for this sleeping room.

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Every August, when the days swelter and the nights are thick with humidity, the "bunk room" at the Cherry Street Mission men's homeless shelter becomes "unbearable," said Larry Whatley, director of resource development at the shelter.

But tonight the men sleeping at the shelter will enjoy a cool breeze gushing out of a brand new air conditioning unit that was installed last week.

Thanks to a $7,500 grant from the Toledo Rotary Foundation, this is the first time the shelter, which was founded in 1947, will have an air conditioning system.

Phillip Karadjordje-vic, 70, originally from Harrison Township near Detroit, first lived in the shelter in 1960.

Now on his fifth stay, Mr. Karadjordjevic, said he's sleeping "much better" as he tries to get back on his feet.

"Thanks to this place, I'm getting my life together.

"They're trying to help me find a job," he said.

The shelter, which doesn't usually get a lot of people in the summer, is averaging more than 50 men in its emergency shelter each night, Mr. Whatley said.

He added that the mission has 72 beds, but usually fills over capacity in the winter because of the cold temperatures.

With the air conditioning system installed in both the bathroom and "bunk room," which is lined by rows of beds, Mr. Whatley said the shelter has only completed the first phase of a renovation program.

"Because these people are living in very close quarters, we want to make it as comfortable as possible for them," he said.

The shelter is in the middle of a fund-raising

campaign to renovate the men's shower area and reopen the Sparrow's Nest, a women's shelter that was closed in September because of poor housing facilities.

Cindy Bell, a longtime Toledo resident, was a Sparrow's Nest resident in a job training program until it closed last year. She now lives at the Toledo Young Women's Christian Association, and gets all her meals at the Cherry Street mission.

"It's just a shame that they lost their funding," Ms. Bell said.

She hopes to find a job soon because she wants to regain custody of her twin 13-year-old sons who are in the foster care system.

Homeless shelters and social service agencies in Toledo, don't know the exact number of homeless people living in the city, said Dan Rogers, the life transformation program coordinator at Cherry Street.

That's because "being homeless doesn't mean that a person doesn't have a home," Mr. Rogers explained. "There are a lot of people who have no homes of their own but stay with their relatives and they only get to us when everyone kicks them out," he said.

Mr. Rogers said homeless shelters and about 20 social service agencies in the Toledo area record every homeless person they help in a central database called the Homeless Management Information System, which will help them determine how many people are homeless in Toledo.

Contact Karamagi Rujumba at:

krujumba@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.

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