Royal Oak's Homeless Find Warmth at Welcome Inn
As temperatures continue to dip in the region, the Welcome Inn offers relief from the bitter cold.
At the Welcome Inn day center in Royal Oak, guests find warmth—both physical and spiritual.
Roy Watson, of Clawson, is the executive director of the day center for the homeless during the winter months. He says the guests, mostly men aged 21 to 68, appreciate being able to come in from the bitter cold and get something to eat, work on computers or enjoy watching a movie—even if the movie was released 20 years ago, as one guest pointed out with a smile.
On Wednesday, with temperatures well below freezing, Watson had about 60 visitors come to the Welcome Inn, which is located at Starr Presbyterian Church. It's the group's first year at the church near 13 Mile and Crooks roads and Watson said guests are enjoying the roomier space.
"Some days I look around and I think our numbers seem to be down, but in fact we up by 8 to 10 guests per day," Watson said. "We are just more spread out."
The day center opens its doors at 6:30 a.m. and stays open until 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Guests must register and follow simple rules, while volunteers come in to cook, cut hair, and even run yoga classes. Others offer medical assistance (four guests were taken to Beaumont Hospital to be treated for ailments on Wednesday), trips to job interviews, and other social services.
Watson is thankful to the many Royal Oak and Berkley churches that offer support to the homeless.
"It is really a community effort," he said, and it can be challenging.
"At this time of year, we start to see cabin fever," Watson said. "I compare it to this. When you have family or guests stay at your house for a couple of weeks, by week two they start to get under your skin. And those are people you like. Just think how these people feel. They are with the same people all day for months. It can get tense."
That is not to say there is a lot of trouble. The guests, for the most part, look out for each other. "They self police," Watson said. Many have been homeless for so long, they know the rules better than the volunteers.
Watson said his crew works to keep the guests happy and jovial.
"We try to ligthen their physical and mental load," he said.
"I am happy to be here," said Don Newman, 58. "We have so many needs being homeless, and obviously shelter is one of them."
Newman, who has battled alcoholism, lost everything nearly a decade ago after he was jailed for 180 days for his third DUI. Three months behind in his bills, he lost his home, car and job.
"I was 49 years old and there were no jobs available," he said. "After two years, I realized I had gotten very good at being homeless and I felt better about myself being able to just get by than being constantly rejected, if that makes sense."
Newman no longer drinks. He can't afford to, he said.
"I don't have money. I am just so grateful to this place and to all the churches, too."
Adam Lukity, 44, has been living on the street for a year and is desperate to find a job—anything he said. He's hoping to land a job waving a sign for a tax company.
"I have worn the Statue of Liberty costume before," he said with a laugh. "If it rains that headpiece starts to get heavy and droop. It can look kind of funny."
The Welcome Inn is assisting Lukity with his job search. One of the simplest things they do for him is secure his belongings while he goes on interviews, he said.
"If employers see you with bags of stuff at your feet, they'll ask, 'Are you homeless?' And, then they never call you back."
How you can help
The Welcome Inn is in need of the following items: fruit, mayonnaise, milk, eggs, butter, cereal, teabags, honey, coffee, creamer, sugar, Kool-Aid, paper towels, Clorox Wipes and men's underwear in all sizes, Watson said.
Donations may be dropped off weekdays between 9 a.m - 5 p.m. at Starr Presbyterian, located at 1717 W. 13 Mile Rd.
If you or someone you know needs overnight shelter, a schedule of area churches providing warming centers can be found on the City of Royal Oak's website at: www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us/portal/content/warming-centers-update