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Published: Saturday, 1/29/2011

St. Paul's offers relief from cold

Starting Friday night, adults with nowhere to stay when the temperature dips to 20 or below can find a cot, a blanket, and some nutrition at St. Paul's Community Center.

The community center, 230 13th St., will open the doors to its Winter Crisis Program at 7:30 p.m. any time the nighttime low is forecast to be 20 or lower. That would have included most nights this month.

The program will have room for 60 people age 18 or older. Those staying the night will receive a cot and a blanket, coffee, and a hot cup of nutritious soup. A light breakfast and coffee will be available before dismissal at 8:30 a.m.

"We'll have a safe, supportive environment," said Marcia Langenderfer, executive director of St. Paul's Community Center.

Frigid temperatures last weekend brought a flurry of inquiries.

"It was so cold," Ms. Langenderfer said. "I worked here all last weekend, and all I heard was, 'Do you have any room for me?'"

She and community center leaders went to the Lucas County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board and the United Way of Greater Toledo, which pledged at least $9,000 each, Ms. Langenderfer said. The Red Cross of Greater Toledo provided cots.

The program still is seeking volunteers and donations of pillows, towels, blankets, soap, cereal, and soup.

Dan Rogers, president and chief executive of Cherry Street Mission Ministries, was encouraged by the news.

"There's no shortage of folks who are in need," he said.

The men's facility of Cherry Street Mission Ministries has capacity for 190, but during the coldest nights last winter, more than 212 men stayed there; women get shelter through the Sparrow's Nest.

"Our prime policy is turn no one away," Mr. Rogers said. "We simply make a place for people because, man, you can get in trouble real quick when it's this cold."

St. Paul's Community Center had a winter overnight program about 10 years ago until it lost funding, Ms. Langenderfer said. The center has an emergency shelter with 30 beds; the average stay there is 90 days.

The community center also offers free showers.

"We're the only place that people can come in and take a shower and leave. There are no programs and [no] commitments," Ms. Langenderfer said.

The homeless population served by St. Paul's is younger than it used to be. Many lost their jobs and exhausted their unemployment benefits.

As a result, they can't afford rent and have been living in their cars or doubling up with friends or family "and that's no longer working out for them and they're back out on the street," Ms. Langenderfer said. "It's a desperate population with desperate needs.

"They don't have any financial resources whatsoever. They don't have enough for a cup of coffee," she said. "We think it's happening elsewhere [but] it's happening in Toledo."

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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