Homeless shelter opens for winter

24/7 shelter welcomes homeless, those without heat through March
Dec. 17, 2013 @ 08:10 AM

A box truck backed up to the door of the old Lenoir High School gymnasium Monday morning, and volunteers hauled out twin-bed-sized cardboard boxes and leaned them against the wall. Before long, a row of folding cots lined the gym floor in preparation for the opening of the Lenoir Emergency Outreach Shelter, otherwise known as LEOS Place.

Just before 9 p.m. a hand-painted sign that read "LEOS shelter open" was hung on the front door of the county's only true homeless shelter.

"It's very meaningful to be able to reach out and provide a place for those in need to warm up and a place to sleep safely," said Elizabeth Norris, shelter coordinator.

LEOS Place is run by Yokefellow, a crisis assistance agency that provides emergency food and other assistance. The City of Lenoir provides the use of the gym and keeps the shelter heated. The cots were donated by Ambassador Baptist Church in Hudson and two Caldwell County Yokefellow volunteers, Barry Story and Mike Maynard. The shelter will be open until March.

County officials estimated last year there were about 60 homeless people, based on head counts at various agencies. But advocates say the true number exceeds 100. Either way, the shelter will have ample space.

"We also want to include those who have no heat, not just those that are homeless," said Yokefellow Director Sharon Osborne. "If your heat goes out because you couldn't pay a bill, or it needs repair, you are welcome to stay."

The shelter opens its doors at 9 every night. People must leave by 7 a.m. It is open seven days a week, and volunteers are there to make sure they are safe. Drinks and snacks are provided. However, the volunteer time and resources available are limited, and more help is needed to oversee the shelter.

"We always are in need of volunteers," said Norris, herself a volunteer for the past three years and now a paid intern. "Anyone can help, by donating time, treasure or talent."