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Giving to the poor

This community wears its heart on its sleeve when it comes to the homeless.

First City Homeless Services, located in the undercroft of the First United Methodist Church on Main Street, reopened its warming center this week for the 2019-2020 season.

As of Oct. 15, the center doors open at 8 until 10 at night. The doors are closed at 10, when no one else may enter unless as referrals from Ketchikan Police Department, Ketchikan Fire Department, Women in Safe Homes or Ketchikan Medical Center.

The center doors remains closed until 6 in the morning, when those who spent the night leave.

But then Homeless Services’ day shelter opens at 8 a.m. until noon, every day except for the Fourth of July and the Saturday of the Blueberry Arts Festival when potential clients tend to not show up. It closes for an hour when those who take advantage of the shelter are encouraged to go to The Salvation Army for lunch. The shelter reopens at 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.

The Salvation Army, 342 Stedman St., provides meals to the homeless Monday through Friday. Volunteers from throughout the community prepare and serve the meals.

On Sundays, the day shelter is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and St. John’s Episcopal Church, 423 Mission St., prepares a Sunday afternoon meal.

Ketchikan stepped up its efforts on behalf of the homeless about five years ago when four people died out in the elements.

The warming center’s motto is “We Save Lives,” according to Sam McQuerry, a member of the board of directors for Homeless Services. He addressed the council Oct. 17, which made the warming center effort a priority as the idea for it was formulated, telling its members and the audience a new season had begun.

The center offers a warm, dry and safe place for the night to all comers without discriminating, McQuerry said. Even the inebriated and others under the influence of drugs may seek shelter at the center.

The only stipulation is that anyone staying at the center may not be a danger to anyone, including themselves. Other arrangements can be made for the homeless in that situation.

The center protects the homeless from assault and theft of their belongings, he said. It also provides a nutritious meal.

McQuerry noted that when the center opened and then started feeding nutritious meals an effect was seen. The homeless’ health improved, and they made fewer visits to Ketchikan Medical Center for hypothermia, trench foot and infections that often plague the homeless.

He pointed out that, in some cases, that led to better well-being and decision-making on the part of the homeless.

The center’s clientele also has included members of the community who might have had to leave their homes following a domestic dispute. Later, they might return home.

Whatever the reason for seeking shelter, the warming center provides it.

This not only is a service to the poor, but it’s a testament to the community’s heart.

No one has to be out in the cold.

Our thanks goes to Homeless Services, the churches mentioned here, the City of Ketchikan and others who donate their time and earnings to ensure shelter and meals for all.