Spirituality

Church opens its doors to homeless


Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church has been feeding and providing shelter for homeless residents on nights of below freezing temperatures. Church member Shirley Washington, left, looks on while Mary Thomas, also a church member, serves dinner to a homeless resident who also will be spending the night in the Fellowship Hall.

Aida Mallard/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 9:11 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 9:11 p.m.

Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church is trying to do its part in making sure the city's homeless residents have somewhere warm to lay their heads on cold nights.

The church has been opening the doors of its fellowship hall to the homeless since the first cold snap hit the area with several nights of below freezing temperatures in early December, said the Rev. Dr. Geraldine McClellan, pastor of Mount Pleasant.

McClellan said the shelter is provided when there is a forecast for extremely cold weather that makes it dangerous to the health of people sleeping outside. Shelter was provided last week when nightly temperatures were below freezing.

McClellan said she expressed her desire to provide shelter to the homeless during cold spells to Gainesville City Commissioner Scherwin Henry, who informed her that a church could provide shelter for up to 20 people on cold nights.

"Thank God for Commissioner Henry," she said.

Starting in December, McClellan said church vans visited the Bo Diddley Downtown Community Plaza and several other sites where the homeless sleep and told them they could come to the church and sleep on cold nights. She said the word has gotten around so much now that the vans don't have to go out any more.

"We went and picked them up at first," McClellan said.

She said the fellowship hall doors open at 6 p.m., with church members serving hot soup, usually chicken noodle soup with "big chunks of chicken" or vegetable soup, with cornbread or rolls and tea or juice.

She said a full breakfast of grits, eggs and bacon is served in the morning before the residents leave the church. She also said two to four church members stay overnight at the church, providing entertainment via television and DVDs.

She said all of the people who have stayed at the church have been kind and they are asked to empty their pockets and backpacks to ensure that everyone is safe.

McClellan said the church has been instructed by the word of God to reach out and help those who are in need.

"If we don't do that, we are just playing church and not being the church," McClellan said.

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