TAKOMA PARK, MD. — It’s six degrees on a Friday night, and the lights are on in the basement of the Sligo Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Inside, children play and adults talk and laugh.
Just hours ago, many of these families without a home didn’t know they would be here, in the warmth, with cots to sleep on, and hot meals to eat.
But now they are in a shelter set up by Donna Robinson and her the non-profit House of Divine Guidance.
“We have people that are sleeping in cars, sleeping on benches, just because they’ve been evicted or they have lost their jobs,” Robinson said.
The church donates the space and Robinson provides the staff, made up of mostly volunteers. She says they started this year with a commitment to help 10 people, but quickly the number grew to 30 men, women and children because the need was so great.
In addition to a place to stay, people who come to the shelter are entertained with movies and games. Also, adults are provided with services that Robinson hopes will help them get back on their feet.
Robinson says the the reward is the smiles, and love she receives from those she helps, especially the many young children at the shelter. “If you interacted with them you would never know the backgrounds of their lives,” she said.
Melanie Aragon, 31, of Germantown Md., says this shelter is a blessing. “The weather out there is bitter cold, and I can’t imagine being out there in this weather. This is a blessing to be here with everyone,” she said.
Sarah Dwyer, 26, is homeless, and says she is grateful for organizations like this. “It makes me not feel alone, and it brings me comfort to know that there’s somebody out there that cares and is really looking out for my well being even though they might not know me,” Dwyer said.
Robinson says the organization is raising money to one day purchase a home where she can house more families year round, not just when the temperatures dip. The organization also accepts donations of warm weather clothing, which they give to the people that stay at the shelter.