Helping the helpless: Jefferson County homeless continue to receive help from JCCM program
SHENANDOAH JUNCTION — In Jan. 2011, the Jefferson County Homeless Coalition worked with local churches, Zion Episcopal Church and St. James Catholic Church, to open their doors to house the homeless on a weekly rotating basis from October through March.
Since then, the coalition has become a part of Jefferson County Community Ministries, Inc. and has expanded its church base to 10 churches: Asbury United Methodist Church in Charles Town, Charles Town Baptist Church, St. Thomas Lutheran Church, Oakland United Methodist Church, St. James Catholic Church, Zion Episcopal Church, Kingdom Life Cathedral Ministries, Fellowship Bible Church, Asbury United Methodist Church in Shepherdstown and Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church.
Over the past week, the homeless were sheltered in Fellowship Bible Church in Shenandoah Junction from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. every night. The church, which has participated in the program for a few years, houses the homeless for two weeks during the winter.
“They pick them up in a bus outside of a place in Charles Town, and the homeless learn to congregate there,” said FBC volunteer Mary Ellen Tedrow-Wynn, one of six people taking shifts in the church throughout Friday night.
According to Tedrow-Wynn, when the JCCM bus arrives at the churches at the beginning of each evening, the homeless people sign in, sign up for morning cleaning duties for the rooms they used, place their sleeping bags and personal items in their separate male/female sleeping rooms and then eat snacks, relaxing together until around 10 p.m. At 10 p.m., the majority of the lights are turned off and the temporary residents are encouraged to sleep.
According to FBC volunteer David Bolls, in the three times he has participated with the program, he has decided that of the two shifts, 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. and 1 a.m. to 7 a.m., the latter may be the easiest shift to work.
“In the morning we have to do breakfast, but for most of the one-to-seven shift, everyone’s asleep, so it’s an easier shift — only thing you have to worry about doing is staying awake,” Bolls said with a smile, before mentioning breakfast is provided by each church in the morning. At FBC, the breakfast is always a hot breakfast made and served by church members at 6 a.m.
“Most nights it’s really calm,” Tedrow-Wynn said, mentioning only one incident occurred in the five times she has volunteered with the program. She said the church’s senior pastor quickly calmed the situation down.
“One time last year we had a riot — obviously it was related to drugs. But it was really cool, Pastor Van was able to come and talk to him. He said, ‘So you’re high?’ and the guy said, ‘Yes,'” Tedrow-Wynn said.
As Bolls brewed some more hot coffee for the 16 people who were dropped off by the bus, Tedrow-Wynn welcomed the new arrivals and greeted JCHC’s weekend bus driver, Don Collins.
While not all of JCHC’s volunteers have experienced homelessness, Collins said he participates in the program because of a close call that happened to his family before they moved from Oklahoma to Jefferson County.
“At one time, I was almost there — my wife and I lost everything and we actually moved out here 30 years ago,” Collins said, mentioning he, his wife and their three daughters found a small house to move into, while they got back on their feet.
For all of the volunteers, whether it is their first time or 50th time, they work by the same mantra, according to Tedrow-Wynn, “Just keep things rolling.”
To learn more, visit jccm.us/, call 304-725-3186 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.