Corrin Johns, outreach staff for Catholic Charities, hit the road to check homeless hotspots after the recent blizzard and sub-zero temperatures—but specifically to see one 60-year-old man named Jeff.
“He hadn’t been feeling well, so I worried he wasn’t going to make it through the night,” said Johns.
The area where Jeff’s tent is still standing.
Freezing, Sick and Alone
Johns found the former market analyst with a fever and pneumonia freezing in flimsy tent with icicles forming on the inside. Jeff had been living out in the woods, miles away from any help.
“I got him out of the tent,” said Johns. “All of his stuff was wet. We got him into a hotel and then took him to urgent care, where he got medicine for pneumonia.”
Warm Shelter for the Homeless
Warm in his motel room, Jeff told me that he’s new to Flagstaff, Ariz., and is cut off from his family and faced a financial crisis. “These are the only people I know. They got me out of my tent and saved my life. I have never seen people go the extra mile,” said Jeff. “They don’t give up. They don’t forget about anyone.”
Jeff is one of the many people experiencing homelessness in Flagstaff, Ariz., that Johns is checking on. With funding low for motel rooms and shelters full, many people like Jeff fall between the cracks but never off the radar of Catholic Charities staff.
Johns sits with Jeff in his motel room to give him support and let him know about next steps.
Survival Gear Saves Lives
“We have maps of places they stay, and we are always checking them to find out how we can help,” says Johns. “We provide them with more blankets, long underwear and other gear to survive the weather. When they are sick, we get them into a motel room and take them to the clinic.”
On extreme weather days, Johns and other Catholic Charities staff go out on foot during the coldest times of night from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., searching frequented homeless locations. If they find someone, they get them into shelter.
Now, due to lack of funding, after Jeff recovers, he’ll have to go back out to his tent. He’s not looking forward to it, but puts his faith in God and the friends he’s met at Catholic Charities. “When you hurt for someone you don’t know that’s the love of God,” says Jeff. “I have to see how this will go, but I pray that God will use me to help others who are homeless.”
We would like to thank the Arizona Community Foundation of Flagstaff and its collaborators including the Geile Charitable Trust, the Forest Highlands Foundation and United Way of Northern Arizona for making this program possible to hire staff to seek out the homeless.
You can be a part of our team, too. You can help the homeless by providing more weather proof tents and emergency funds to provide shelter for people like Jeff. To support Flagstaff programs to serve the homeless, visit CatholicCharitiesAZ.org/Snow-Day.