“This has given me a whole new direction for my life.”
“I will never be the same because of you guys. You have no idea.”
Right, those were some of the sentiments spoken this week – from the teary volunteers to the guests – as the Winter Warming Centers wrapped up a unanimously game-changing first season in West Sacramento. And around the traveling family table that has come to symbolize the uniquely supportive flavor of the WWCs, the heartfelt gratitude went both ways.
Honestly, what kind of weird homeless sheltering program celebrates its 76-night run with live music and a feast prepared by the guests for the staff and some of the regular volunteers? This one did, with new sobriety stories dancing alongside church ladies while all balanced their plates high with barbecued chicken. Four months earlier, some of these same guests had taken their first cautious steps off the bus into an untested maiden program, not having any idea what was ahead … or even who they were entrusting themselves to.
“Thank you for trusting us,” program manager Nicole Ring-Collins said to the guests this week, between band sets. “You trusted us, and you didn’t have to do that. We will always be so thankful for that.”
With a season-high 19 guests this Wednesday night, the WWCs provided warmth, safety and encouragement to an average of 11.5 guests a night this winter. A total of 875 bed nights were provided, and nearly 20 percent of the individuals who utilized the Warming Centers wound up in more permanent housing situations by the end of the program. Others credited the family-type support for helping them take their first steps in sobriety, securing better health care, meeting court appointments to be reunified with their children, and simply rediscovering hope.
Next season’s WWC sequel is a foregone conclusion. Along the way, Mercy Coalition staff and volunteers are positioning themselves to maintain weekly contact with our guests … our friends.