By GALEN HOLLEY / NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Shaun Palmer arrived in Tupelo a week ago from Cheyenne, Wyo., but Monday it was cold even to him.
“I’m just glad to have somewhere to come inside,” said the 31-year-old as he spread out blankets over a mattress in The Salvation Army’s gymnasium on Carnation Street.
Palmer’s wife, Dawn, was out ringing bells for the nonprofit while he gathered his thoughts and enjoyed a hot meal and some quiet.
The couple were among some 10 homeless folks who for several days have sought shelter inside The Salvation Army’s gym to protect them from the freezing weather.
The 19 beds in the Army’s lodge have been full for more than a week, but with temperatures occasionally dipping below freezing the staff isn’t turning anybody away. “We’re making room, even if we have to invent something,” said Army employee Marie Parker.
This kind of cold isn’t to be taken lightly. Palmer is no stranger to the road, and in Flagstaff, Ariz., he knew a homeless man who froze to death.
For the homeless, extreme cold makes everything more urgent, and perhaps clearer.
Jerry Nesby is clean of drugs, but every day is a struggle. Monday the 41-year-old praised God for the warmth that he and his girlfriend, Rosalind, enjoyed. He planned to go out later and ring bells, anything to earn his keep and pay the Army back for its kindness.
The Salvation Army requires boarders to go out and look for work between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., but not in this weather.
Twenty-five-year-old Kevin Peacock of Greenville looked as red-cheeked and spry as a high school graduate, but he didn’t have a place in this world to sleep. “You can get your mind right, here,” he said as he made his bed in the gym.
Forecasters expect the unseasonably cold weather to hold until Thursday.
Even in the midst of its Christmas mailing blitz, and with bell-ringers on virtually every corner, The Salvation Army is still $20,000 behind where it was in its holiday campaign last year.
“We’re not going to let people suffer, even if they won’t come to us,” Parker said as she wrapped herself in a coat and scarf and hurried out the door. She was headed toward a nearby overpass, where she knew she’d find Slim and Sunshine, two Salvation Army regulars, who need a little urging.
Contact them at (662) 842-9222.
Contact Galen Holley at (662) 678-1510 or email@example.com