CINCINNATI — As Halloween night temperatures dropped rapidly, Maslow's Army took to their mobile warming center to aid people in Cincinnati experiencing homelessness, since winter emergency shelters haven't opened yet.
After learning about the need for a warm place to sleep, a local church worked to immediately open its doors to people experiencing homelessness. On Sunday night, they announced they plan to continue to open as a cold shelter any time the temperatures dip too low.
"We don't have really anything here to be a shelter, but we do have warm buildings," said Lesley Jones, pastor at Truth and Destiny United Church of Christ.
The Mt. Airy church may not be a traditional shelter, but they're determined to help the best they can with what they've got. Warm meals and a warm place to stay for the night are aplenty, and for those coming in from the cold, that's enough.
"What people think of heaven can be here," said Shawn "Bear" Barrett, who's staying at the church. "And this is part of it. I mean, a lot of these people would be in the cold right now."
So far, 35 people experiencing homelessness have taken the church up on their offer of a warm place to stay since they responded to the need on Halloween night.
Truth and Destiny United Church of Christ worked with Maslow's Army after the sudden cold snap hit to do their best to provide a low-barrier shelter that won't turn anyone away.
"They didn't have to do this," said Corey Robinson, who's been staying at the church. "They didn't have to house people like they did, but they did. That's why I say it feels like a blessing."
Jones said the decision to remain open as an emergency cold shelter has invigorated the congregation of Truth and Destiny United Church of Christ, who are determined to help by welcoming their new guests with open arms.
"This is a different place," said Jones. "This is a place where it really feels like the people care. People love them and are willing to help them. I know it's truly inspired our congregation."
For the church's newfound guests, this acceptance is just as important to them as the warm meals and warm rooms the church provides. Barrett said, for him, acceptance and love go a long way.
"Acceptance is the key to all my problems," he said. "I accept that I love myself and now I can love others, and this is teaching people that they can love themselves and get along with others."
The church and Maslow's army are now looking for donations of cots, blankets and other items to help them function as a shelter throughout the winter. Donations can be made directly to Maslow's Army, or simply dropped off at Truth and Destiny Church on North Bend Road.