CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) - Deacon Craig Lagier is doing what he does most mornings when it's cold in Carson City. He is driving his truck around and handing out hand warmers, gloves, sleeping bags, and coats to people living on the street. He gets tearful when asked why he does this.
"Mainly, I do it because they're human beings and they're a part of our community," says Deacon LaGier.
He also tells them where they can go for a warm place to stay at night. This year, he is able to tell them about something new: for the first time, five church organizations have joined forces to operate winter warming shelters. The shelter will rotate to a different church each month. St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Community Church has been the first shelter since November 18. The shelters will move to First United Methodist, then St. Paul's Lutheran, and finally St. Peter's Episcopal. The service should provide warm shelters to the homeless through the end of March. Deacon LaGier says The Salvation Army is the fifth church organization that is helping, but instead of providing a shelter, it is supplying the vehicle that will provide rides to the shelters.
"It really creates a community that has depths becuse it crosses our communities," says Daphne DeLeon, a parishioner at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Community Church, who came up with the idea that relies entirely on church volunteers.
"If we don't have volunteers, we're not able to offer this service to our community. We have more than 100 volunteers," says DeLeon.
With an average of 20 people staying each night at the shelter so far this season, this operation has provided another option to Friends In Service Helping, also known as FISH, which has limited beds. And while Carson City's homeless population is significantly smaller than Reno's (Deacon LaGier says he estimates there are about 150 on the streets at night in Carson City), advocates in the homeless in Reno are watching closely. The temporary overflow shelter for the homeless that just opened in downtown Reno last week also using volunteers from different churches to staff it. And the folks running the shelter at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Community Church plan to meet with officials from ACTIONN (Acting in Community Together in Organizing Northern Nevada) next month.
"We're hoping to meet in the first of the year to find those commonalities and leverage each others' strengths both in Carson City and in Reno," says DeLeon.