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Lodi homeless fight cold

Local churches work to keep people warm

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Posted: Wednesday, December 28, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:52 am, Wed Dec 28, 2011.

Sitting at a picnic table at Lawrence Park with about eight other people, Larry Skinner plays dominos while wearing two zip-up sweatshirts and two jackets on Tuesday afternoon.

"In this weather, you can stay warm as long as you're dry," said Skinner, who suggested using a tarp to keep dry.

With temperatures dipping to 30 degrees and below during the night, the Lodi area's homeless population has been shivering and using more imagination in trying to warm themselves up.

Will Laird says he uses a couple blankets on top of his main blanket — it keeps the frost from soaking through. Several in the group went to the Salvation Army on Christmas to get winter vests and blankets.

During the cold snap that hit the Lodi area in December, homeless people find abandoned homes, lay under bushes or try to sleep in Downtown alleys, according to Dan Randall, who runs UPtown Thrift shop on Sacramento Street near Pine Street.

"They're sleeping in what they call 'camps,'" said Vince Yorba, outreach pastor at Gravity Church on South Central Avenue.

However, workers from the California Department of Transportation swept out a homeless camp last week, so they had to find other places to sleep, Yorba said. One man was found recently sleeping on Gravity Church's front porch.

The weather forecast indicates that the long cold snap is about over, but local churches, UPtown Thrift and the Salvation Army are still looking for donated blankets, jackets and other items that they can pass on to the homeless.

On Christmas Eve, members of the Sunday school at Deshmesh Darbar, Lodi's Sikh temple, donated 70 blankets and some socks to Hope Harbor as well as pizza.

"They are just one of several groups and individuals that have donated to us," said Karen West, shelter director for Hope Harbor, the Salvation Army's homeless shelter on Sacramento Street. "They distributed to our dinner service that evening as well as to the overnight guests."

In addition to the Sikh temple's contribution, a group of women at Vinewood Community Church made pancake breakfast for 55 homeless people on Christmas Eve morning at Gravity Church, Yorba said.

"They're human beings — they have hearts, they have emotions," Randall said about the homeless. "Somewhere along the line, they were hurt, and they want to get out of that hurt."

Some of today's homeless, Randall said, are people who once held 9-to-5 jobs.

"They're not just alcoholics, drug addicts or bums," he added.

Yorba coordinates efforts with Lodi churches to help the homeless keep warm and fed.

"I try to connect churches so that no one church has their name on it," Yorba said.

In addition to Gravity and Salvation Army, some of the more active churches involved with the homeless include Grace Presbyterian Church on Mills Avenue and Bethel Open Bible Church on Ham Lane.

"Other than (people using) drugs and alcohol, we aren't turning anyone away," Salvation Army Lt. Dan Williams said. "For those who can't sustain from drugs and alcohol, we will refer them to other facilities that can take them. As for everyone else, we will find room for them. There will be room at the inn."

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com, chief photographer Dan Evans at dane@lodinews.com or photographer Jennifer M. Howell at jenh@lodinews.com.

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