Although they won’t be in their own homes for Christmas eve and Christmas day, the guests at the William S. Davies Homeless shelter will still a warm, safe place to be and gifts under the tree.
The men who are currently guests at the 16-bed shelter will have Christmas eve dinner today starting at 5 p.m., said Devon Smyth, the shelter’s Executive Director.
A special dinner is being donated by a ladies group at Trinity United Methodist Church and all the shelter’s residents will receive stockings with their names on them.
“We’ve got donations of pajamas and slippers for each guest,” Smyth said. “Every guest will have a present to open under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning.”
Normally, guests must leave the home in the morning and return in the evening to stay the night.
However, on Christmas day, the men will be allowed to stay in all day if they’d like. There will be a special Christmas day lunch as well. Some of the food is being donated and some of it will be cooked there by the staff and guests if they’d like to help. Volunteers will also be on hand to help out.
“The Christmas eve and Christmas day meals are very community building,” Smyth said. “People sit together and talk and laugh and hear each others’ stories and learn about each other. It’s more of a family gathering than anything else.”
She said the interaction breaks down barriers of all sorts and enjoys seeing that interaction unfold around the dinner table or around the Christmas tree.
“When you sit down with someone and you listen to them and you learn about who they are and a little about what they’ve been through then they’re not ‘those people’ anymore,” she said. “They’re just like you and me. We all have our ups and downs. All of us have plans that didn’t go quite as expected. All our paths are a little crooked.”
Since opening in January, 2016, the shelter has housed more than 100 men. It’s a transitional shelter (as opposed to an emergency shelter) which means the men who stay there have beds that are theirs for the duration of their stay as long as they complete a few requirements. They may stay for weeks at a time or months at a time.
Some guests require help for mental health issues which is a priority, Smyth said. And guests are assisted in finding jobs or getting their GED or securing housing.
But in order to house 16 men on a daily basis, Smyth said the shelter needs all the things that any other home would need, just a lot more of it. Their web site, www.daviesshelter.com, has a list of items that are needed.
This Christmas eve and Christmas day, as the guests, staff and volunteers share meals and open presents, Smyth said she hopes the community will see the progress some of the residents are making.
One guest was riding his bike from the shelter (off Maple Avenue) to Armuchee every day for work. Another guest is working at a plant on Hwy. 53. He takes the bus as far as the Floyd County jail then walks the rest of the way to work.
Another guest has been living at the shelter since March and was in a diabetic coma before coming there. His plan is to get become healthy so he can improve his situation.
“One of our guests is a teacher,” Smyth said. “Many people have this idea in their head of what a homeless person is. But until you listen to someone’s story and learn about their journey they you really don’t see the entire picture.”
Smyth said she and her staff (including Brian Harris, Linda Blackwell and Melissa Wood) welcome volunteers for Christmas as well as throughout the year and hope the community’s generosity during the holidays will extend to other times as well.
Some of the things that are needed include Rome Transit Department passes and $10 gift cards to fast food restaurants so guests can coffee or a quick meal while out working of looking for a job. They also need new slippers (sizes 9-13), new sweatpants and sweatshirts and bicycle accessory items such as helmets and reflective vests.
“This is a home,” Smyth said. “We want to make Christmas feel as special to our guests as it does to everyone else.”
Anyone wishing to donate or volunteer on Christmas or at any time, can call 706-512-1152.