Contributions from the Community Help the Homeless

Sierra Presbyterian is a small church with only about a dozen active members. But every evening at this time a large congregation of homeless men and women come to this chapel for a warm meal and a safe place to spend the night.

A blanket of clouds covers the moon on this cold winter night. But the homeless who live below the dark Merced sky have little to keep them warm. Many walk the streets to fight the frigid temperatures.

Tommy Kendrick: "It gets tiring, every once in awhile we gotta sit down but in order to stay warm, just gotta keep moving."

But the weary wanderers who have made their way to Sierra Presbyterian Chruch are able to find rare refuge from the cold.

Tommy Kendrick: "This is a place right here that has its doors open for us to come to so we don't freeze, and we have shelter, someplace to eat."

"It's warm in here now."

The small sanctuary began offering overnight stays in mid-December after wire theft delayed the completion of a new permanent shelter that's now expected to open later this month.

Candice Adam-Medefind: "Our building isn't a big fancy building to be hoarded; it's a church to be used up in service to those people that Jesus said we should be serving."

Volunteers of all ages donate their time to cook warm dinners and breakfasts each day. And the county, city, and other churches and individuals are helping fund this safe haven.

"We all get together and just try to brainstorm how we can get through the next week. And it does come together, it's amazing. It is certainly an act of faith."

The generosity is not lost on the men and women who find comfort on the small blanketed cots that line the church floor.

"It's a blessing in my eyes."

William Douglas says he recently lost a friend to the elements.

William Douglas: "Just this year over here by the railroad tracks, he just gave up and died."

But here the homeless find the shelter they need to stay alive and the support that tells them they're not alone.

Tommy Kendrick: "It makes me feel good because that's something they're putting effort into to try to help us."

The church hopes to keep its doors open every night until January 25th when the permanent shelter is expected to be complete. But organizers say it will only be possible with continued help from the community.

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