COLDWATER, Mich. — Ever since Paul Pope opened the warming center on Hudson Street in December, people in the community have been telling him that the homeless situation in the area isn’t bad, he said.
Pope immediately disagreed and decided to prove people wrong.
“Me and my wife heard there was a homeless area here in the city of Coldwater. So we decided to go out and see for ourselves,” Pope said during an interview with FOX 17 Wednesday afternoon. “We went out to an area and we walked through the woods for maybe 10-15 minutes and we came across a homeless shack.”
Pope said the door was kicked in. They decided not to go inside because it was someone’s home. However the person who was there allowed them to take pictures of the place.
“All the windows were boarded,” Pope said. “The ceiling was falling down above where he had his mattress and the wheelchair that was in there. So that’s where they’re living.”
Pope said he then took the photos and posted them on the Genesis Outreach Ministries and Warming Center Facebook page.
Immediately people commented that they were sadden by the photos, he said. Others posted that the homeless needed jobs.
“Yeah they do need to get a job but they need help to do that,” said Pope who’s the director of the center. “And if we’re not willing to show compassion and love to help these people get back on their feet to be productive parts of society, how are we going to better off our community. We’re not.”
Pope said he knows firsthand how hard it is being homeless. He and his wife were once homeless and they had to 'work hard' to get out of it. Eventually , they did. And it's their experience, along with seeing the shack in the woods, that's motivating them to continue repairing the warming center to ultimately remind the community that homelessness exists in the area, he said.
“We’ve replaced all the piping downstairs. We just had the furnace repaired,” he said. “We have a roof leak. We still have a roof leak. We’re waiting for somebody to come fix it.”
He said they’re also going to put in drywall, fix up the kitchen and rearrange the basement so they can hold classes there. They've even created a GoFundMe account to help pay for the costs.
“We’re going to have people coming in to talk to them,” Pope said. “We’re going to have programs here for the homeless, job-readiness classes and money management classes.”
Pope said they hope to officially open the warming center on Monday February 10. However with Wednesday’s temperatures dropping into the 20s, along with several inches of snow expected, Pope is willing to open it beforehand for whomever needs.
“We’re not going to judge anybody who walks in here,” he assured. “I don’t care what your past is. All we care about is that you’re hungry, you’re cold and you need some compassion.”