Overnight warming centers, hot showers open to homeless at Cape Girardeau church

Church offers shelter from the cold

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - When it gets below 35 degrees a small church in Cape Girardeau opens its door to the homeless as ‘The People’s Shelter.’

This winter season came out of nowhere and St. James AME Church in Cape Girardeau is offering overnight warming for people who do not have a place to stay.

Pastor Renita Green said they gave a half dozen people a warm dinner and a safe place to stay last night, November 12, and she expects even more the next few days with the snowy forecast.

“I didn’t know this was open last night and had I known I would have been very grateful to come here,” said Mindy, a traveling missionary from St. Louis.

Monday night Mindy slept outside in the sleet and cold temperatures on cardboard under an overhang of a business with just a mummy sleeping bag.

“I started sheltering but the wind was blowing in the sleet sideways so I had to put my umbrella to keep it from coming down over me," she said. “You’re not sleeping. You’re surviving. You are waiting for day break so you can go back in some place and get warm. And I’m so grateful that this church actually opens their doors to help people who are doing as I do or who are homeless for whatever reason. They are very kind, hospitable and sweet to me from the moment I walked through the door.”

Green says the cold weather came so quickly that they did not have time to get cots, but still saw the need and decided to open.

“Right now people will be sleeping on the pews with quilts,” Green said. “It not like a comfy bed, but it is much better than the hard cold ground. It was very touching last night to hear people snore. When they you know they are really asleep and they feel safe.”

The people’s shelter runs on the help of about 30 volunteers and donations of food, clothing and other supplies.

Over the summer numerous community groups helped build a private shower at the church, so people who stay at the shelter overnight can bathe.

“For homelessness there are only so many options for them to get their showers,” said Mindy. “So whenever there is a facility where they can come in and actually get clean and get hot water on them it is such a blessing and it’s such a luxury for them.”

"A shower is so important,” said Rev. Green. “It humanizes you. And when you just walk around in dirty clothes and dirty skin you forget that you're human. And so we are very grateful for the plumbers and pipe fitters and laborers and community partners that came together. They saw the need and they offered this and made it happen.”

Rev. Green said they served 70 people over 45 days last winter. Since this winter season has started early, she is encouraging more people to sign up to volunteer or stop by and drop off donations of toiletry items, adult size clothing, cleaning supplies, and kitchen essentials like trash bags and paper products.

St. James AME Church is located at 516 North Street in Cape and can be reached by calling 573-334-9119.

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