Wednesday Dec 23 2009
Bringing the homeless in
By: Joyia Emard Gold Country News Service
Steve Davis, of Loomis, is doing his part to help the homeless in Placer County. Davis, a retired Rocklin schoolteacher, is one of the volunteer bus drivers for The Gathering Inn, a nomadic shelter housed inside local churches. Davis and other drivers shuttle up to 50 homeless people to different churches each night for a hot meal and a safe and warm place to sleep. “I have a very small part. I drive the bus,” Davis said. Davis said the homeless live on the outer fringes of society. He sees his role as “giving them compassion and treating them like people. “They feel sadly about being a class of people that are outsiders. They’d like to be included,” Davis said. “They’re human beings. It hurts them that they’re outcasts.” Davis, who is a member of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Rocklin, said all of his passengers have a story to tell that often includes a catastrophic event in their lives that leads to alcoholism. Some, he said, are mentally ill and others have just fallen on hard times and are out of work. Many, he said, come from very dysfunctional families. “What is surprising is how close you or I could be to their situation. I had a woman on the bus who was a San Francisco socialite. Her husband developed cancer and they spent their entire fortune on his medical care. When he died, she got depressed and began drinking and became an alcoholic.” Davis said drivers pick up the homeless at a Roseville location, where they can shower and get clean clothes, then drive them to a church. The guests are picked up in the morning and returned to Roseville. The Gathering Inn serves the homeless in Western Placer County, which includes the cities of Roseville, Loomis, Rocklin and Auburn. According to the organization’s Web site, a network of 60 churches act as inns for the homeless and provide them “with access to showering, clean clothes, hot meals and a place to relax.” “It’s a temporary shelter. We try to transition them to getting services and housing. There are always new faces,” Davis said. Davis said those faces include families with children. According to Liz Nicholson, program director, The Gathering Inn serves 500 different homeless people during the course of a year. Davis said more bus drivers are needed to help ferry the homeless. He said prospects don’t need prior experience, just a willingness to learn and get licensed. “One does what one can,” Davis said.