Prayer provided shelter for some of El Dorado County’s homeless residents during a recent snowstorm and frigid nights.
After zoning issues prevented several churches from starting a rotating overnight shelter program, some congregations opened their facilities for all-night prayer vigils and invited people who were homeless to join them.
If some folks happened to doze off during the vigils, well, “people fall asleep in church all the time,” said <a href="”>Frank Gates, a pastor at <a href="”>Cold Springs Community Church in Placerville.
Gates said the churches are not flouting the law. They are working with the county Development Services Department to identify obstacles they must overcome to operate a rotating shelter.
In the meantime, he said, “This is certainly a legal and viable way to do it.”
Gates said the vigils likely would occur on nights that are extremely cold or wet.
Mark Haas, pastor of First Lutheran Church in Placerville, said his congregation held a vigil Dec. 7. With the city blanketed in snow, volunteers in four-wheel-drive vehicles picked up people camping out around Main Street and Broadway and brought them to the church.
The following night, he said, people were directed to the better-equipped county-sponsored warming center at Placerville’s Town Hall.
Shelter for homeless families on the county’s west slope will continue to be available through a motel voucher program. William Roby, director of the El Dorado Community Foundation, said the foundation last week awarded a $20,000 grant to United Outreach of El Dorado County. The grant is expected to sustain the voucher program through April, Roby said.
For single people, however, a rotating shelter program appears to be the most promising option, said Roby, who is helping coordinate the efforts of various groups that serve the homeless.
Gates said county staff members also are assisting the churches to develop the rotating shelter program.
“They recognize that something needs to be done,” he said.