The Salvation Army stands ready to provide extreme weather shelter for all the homeless population in the area, at any time of the year.
“If we had a freezing spell in July, we’d be open,” shelter director Jimmy Powers said.
Although that might seem like saying when you-know-where freezes over, Powers was serious, demonstrating the Salvation Army’s commitment to helping those in need. The program is not sponsored by any government agency, national, state or local; all funding is from the Salvation Army District Headquarters and local contributions.
“There are advantages to that,” said local Salvation Army commander Lieutenant Sid Salcido.
The time necessary to file for oft-minor government grants is hardly worth paying an employee to do so, Salcido said, adding that many have such narrow guidelines that coping with the unique character of our community would be difficult, if not impossible.
So when the weather turns freezing, it is the Salvation Army, aided by Sierra Roots, that mobilizes its forces.
This community service program began a few years ago on a casual basis when Majors Don and Martha Sheppard took the Salvation Army van around to homeless camps on bone-chilling nights, offering a ride to a warm place for the night at the Salvation Army facilities at 10725 Alta St., Grass Valley.
Many had addictions and/or mental issues, but they were welcomed. Their replacements, Lieutenants Sid and Reyna Salcido, have organized these efforts into the Extreme Weather Shelter.
If the weather warrants, at 4 p.m., Lt. Sid calls KNCO, KVMR, the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, Grass Valley and Nevada City police departments to let them know that the Salvation Army will have its shelter open.
Anyone and everyone who can be notified by those organizations is informed. Then the Salvation Army and volunteers from Sierra Roots go out to bring all those needing a warm place to sleep to a safe haven.
Picking them up from designated locations, the drivers transport them to the Family Center on Alta. They are given clean mats, sleeping bags and blankets for the night, as well as a hot dinner and a hot breakfast the next morning.
In an interview recently, Jimmy Powers and Eric Norland spoke about the program and their personal experiences with the Salvation Army.
“We don’t care if they smell like liquor or are under the influence of opiates or stimulants,” Powers said. “As long as we feel that they are not a danger to themselves or others, we let them in.”
That includes animal companions who have a leash or litter box.
“We don’t want their animals to die, either,” Powers said.
He told of a woman who came to the facility in freezing weather, but was going to stay in her car to keep her cat warm.
“I told her, ‘Come on in and bring your cat.’ And she did.”
Powers is the perfect person to run the Extreme Weather Shelter. He well remembers his life before becoming a part of the Salvation Army.
“Back in July, I was homeless,” he said. “I probably know 70 percent of the people who come in here from when I was on the streets. I’d had back surgery and was addicted to opiates. (Lieutenant) Sid mentored me and counseled me. Now I’m nine weeks into the soldiership program.”
According to a Salvation Army’s website, soldiership confirms commitment to God, which is best expressed through service to others.
By anyone’s standards, Powers is doing that. Besides running the shelter and cooking there (he is an experienced chef), he does maintenance and repairs at the Booth Center, the former Manzanita House.
Powers is assisted at the shelter and in his work at the Booth Center by Norland, a young man who also knows the rougher side of life.
Norland had dropped out of Sierra College, was unemployed and had gone through rehab when Powers invited him to attend a service at the Salvation Army.
Lt. Sid encouraged him to attend “soldiership” classes and Norland now hopes to make the Salvation Army his career by going to its officer’s school.
Any help in monetary donations as well as mats, sleeping bags and blankets in new condition is always welcome.