By Dan Genaro
As winter progresses and the temperature is cold, the homeless in the Youngstown community are struggling to stay warm.
Terry Vicars, a case worker for Catholic Charities Regional Agency, has been very involved with helping the homeless over the past 10 years.
Vicars works closely with the Youngstown Rescue Mission, which provides a shelter as a place to stay for those with nowhere to go during the winter.
“We’re blessed in the valley to have the Youngstown Rescue Mission, which is a very good shelter in my opinion,” Vicars said. “Unfortunately, though they do a good job with the resources they have, we could use a bigger shelter or a second shelter for sure.”
Vicars said the Youngstown Rescue Mission’s shelter has been consistently full for the past four years.
“As soon as we or another agency help a family get out of the shelter and into housing, the place that family was in fills up right away,” Vicars said.
Another way the community helps the homeless is through the cold weather program, which kicks in every December 1.
“Even if the Youngstown Rescue Mission is full, those in charge will make provisions to take in families that are forced to be outside or sleep in their car despite the full occupancy,” Vicars said.
Beyond what Vicars does for the homeless in the community, students at Youngstown State University partake in helping the cold and homeless through the Catholic Charities Regional Agency.
Brandon Terlecky, a sophomore telecommunications and sports broadcasting major, said he and other students participate in Catholic Charities gatherings, which are held monthly and give the homeless a place to warm themselves up, eat food and socialize.
“We have a meeting or event every month where we provide food, entertainment and support for those who attend,” Terlecky said. “All in all, our gatherings last about six hours. We also help with kids a lot because parents are unable to afford babysitters.”
Terlecky said the experience of helping the homeless is wonderful and fulfilling.
“We talk about one another’s lives, and it makes you realize that your problems aren’t as big as they seem,” Terlecky said.
Laura Roch, graduate student in professional communications, said she feels comfortable offering support and friendship to people who are struggling.
“They’re going through a difficult time, and they need a smiling face and someone to help reassure them so they can get through this and come out on top,” Roch said. “Life is never easy, and I find that people going through things need support because that’s something they may be lacking.”
Roch said building up the confidence of those in need is key to helping.
“They really just need love and support to reassure themselves, then they can feel more confident,” Roch said.
The community of Youngstown will continue to help the homeless and cold as winter continues.
“The number one cause of homelessness is unemployment,” Vicars said. “Eighty percent of my clients have a job but only part time. Some have many part time jobs.”
Vicars is confident in the work he is doing with the Youngstown Rescue Mission but believes there needs to be more done.
“There are plenty of resources in the community but not enough,” Vicars said.