3 accept church's hospitality All of them expect to return to shelter GLEN BURNIE

December 02, 1992|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

Joe had spent an occasional night protected from wind in an alcove outside Glen Burnie United Methodist Church. But Monday night, as the temperature headed for the freezing point, he slept inside the church.

"This right here, this is a lifesaver here, that's for sure," said Joe, homeless for more than a year.

Joe, who requested that his last name not be given, was one of three men to accept the offer of food and a warm cot from "Winter Relief for the Homeless" on the shelter's first night. The shelter, designed for up to a dozen men, will move among about 14 Glen Burnie-area churches, spending a week at a time at each at least through March.

So far, 33 churches representing 12 denominations are involved, providing the overnight shelter, preparing and serving dinner or breakfast, and staffing the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shelter, said Jim Fouse, the coordinator.

All are volunteers in the project of the Glen Burnie Ministerium.

Early conversation between the homeless men and the volunteers who outnumbered them four to one was stilted, confined mostly to talk about the ham dinner and a cake made by the church's youth fellowship. But by 9:30 p.m., Joe was occupied with teaching some volunteers how to play Spades. The other two shelter guests were chatting with volunteers as they watched a videotape of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."

Doug Ripple, a lay minister at the church, was among volunteers who spent the night, cooked a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, and made sandwiches from dinner leftovers for the men to take with them yesterday.

The experience changed his thoughts about the homeless, who previously were nameless people he saw on Baltimore streets.

"It was prejudice, I guess. I always thought if you wanted to make something out of your life you could, but now I don't think that's always so. I don't think they're trying to be a drain on society," he said.

Mr. Ripple described the men who stayed overnight Monday -- all of whom signed up to return last night -- as "cooperative, polite people" whose lives spiraled away from them. The men helped put the social hall back in order for a 10 a.m. meeting of church women.

Peggy Vick, director of the Salvation Army in Glen Burnie and an organizer of the shelter, said she expects cold weather and word of mouth will help fill the shelter in coming weeks. Men will be admitted to the shelter with a referral slip from the Salvation Army.

"It's new," said Joe. "The word will get around."

However, he said, "There are those who choose the bottle over a warm bed. I was once like that myself." Fingering a 24-hour chit from Alcoholics Anonymous, he said he has been sober for 16 days by choice.

He and Bill Vandenhuerk, another homeless man, agreed Monday night to try to attend AA meetings together. Mr. Vandenhuerk, who said he had spent the weekend on the streets, said he hopes to get his job back fixing televisions at a Brooklyn repair shop, continue to stay at "Winter Relief" churches and stop drinking.

He said he'd had to leave a shelter in Baltimore earlier last month because guests were not permitted to hold jobs.

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