This year thousands of people spent Christmas morning without a place to call home. The reasons behind homelessness are varied and complicated. Some homeless people need jobs to earn money to sustain a monthly rental payment while others need mental health help to stabilize them so they can keep track of normal tasks like paying rent and utilities. Still other homeless people need medical help to get back to a point so they can work a job and pay rent. No matter how one gets homeless or how long one has been homeless, it would seem there is no sadder time to be homeless than at Christmas.
The folks at the Grayson County Shelter tried to take some of the sting out of the holiday for people who called the shelter their temporary home for Christmas.
Michelle Holcomb, the shelter’s volunteer coordinator, said several area churches helped to make the holiday brighter for the residents.
“First Baptist Church of Gunter is doing a Christmas Eve dinner,” Holcomb said in an interview earlier this week. Then on Christmas Day, First United Methodist Church of Tom Bean prepared a lunch for the group.
She said area churches provide meals through out the year for the residents. On Christmas Eve approximately 25 people, some of them children, were expected to call the shelter home.
Holcomb said the number of people in residence is down a bit this year partly due to the fact that the shelter was closed for a while due to a bed bug infestation.
She said those who do stay in the shelter were expected to do what many families do on the holidays.
“It will be a relaxing, chill out day,” she said. Residents were expected to watch Christmas movies and maybe play a board game or two.
Even though the shelter provides individual family rooms, she said, residents tend to hang out together in groups. “They end up forming relationships and friendships with each other,” she said. She noted that the residents have already helped to decorate the shelter.
And, just like at home, someone had to help wash the dishes and clean up the kitchen after the feast.
Holcomb said children in the shelter got Christmas presents and many of the adults’ wish lists have been filled as well.
“We try to make it all as pleasant as possible,” Holcomb said. The shelter also has free coats to give out to anyone who might be in need of one.
The Grayson County Shelter began, as an idea, in 1987 when members of the Denison Ministerial Alliance realized the need for a place for the homeless in Grayson County to find services and a roof over their heads. By the next year, the Grayson County Shelter was providing meals, shelter and showers to homeless community. In 1991, the shelter changed to a family-friendly environment when it was noticed that the number of homeless families was increasing. It also began to operate on a 24-hour basis to provide a “temporary” home to clients.
Local churches still help the shelter in a number of ways from providing meals on an ongoing basis to helping residents find work and other necessities.