For Patrick Winters, working with the homeless is more than a job. It’s a calling.
“I’ve worked with the homeless population for seven years now, and I just love it,” he said. “It’s a passion of mine.”
Winters, who has worked as a case manager since 2010 at the Tempe Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program (IHELP), a program of the Tempe Community Action Agency, was recently promoted to the role of IHELP manager.
Beth Fiorenza, executive director of Tempe Community Action Agency, said Winters is well-qualified for his new position and has a true understanding of the many people who receive food, shelter and other services from IHELP.
“The program first started back in 2006, when members of the faith community got together to see how they could help the homeless population,” Fiorenza said.
“They were very touched by the story of a homeless woman who had passed away in the heat near Tempe Town Lake about a year earlier. The faith community talked about how they could be a solution for some of the issues that are affecting the homeless in our area.”
After discussing a similar program in California that involves local congregations housing the homeless overnight, Fiorenza said the group decided to duplicate the program in Tempe. The program, which provides a nightly meal and shelter overnight, is available seven nights a week, 365 days a year.
When IHELP first began, three congregations were on board as host sites. This number has now grown to 12, Fiorenza said, adding that about 20 groups help to provide the evening meal. In addition, she said, the program has since been duplicated in Mesa and Chandler.
Winters said IHELP assists homeless men and women over the age of 18.
“We help any individual who presents themselves, and we also serve couples too.”
The intake process begins at 3:45 p.m. each afternoon, Winters said, and guests are then transported over to the host site where they eat dinner and have the opportunity to shower in a mobile unit that is sponsored by the Henkel Corporation and the Dial Brand. Early the next morning, the group is transported back over to the intake site.
“Also, when somebody obtains work, we assist the individuals in getting back into the workforce with clothing or whatever they need,” Fiorenza said. “We can also help get them a bus pass, which we buy at a non-profit rate, and we can always use donations of t-shirts, underwear, socks and work boots—things that can help get people outfitted for a job.”
Winters said he is thrilled about his role of manager at IHELP. He said he hopes to bring in new congregations and meal providers in order to help the program grow even more.
“I enjoy working with the homeless population, helping them to transition out of the program and be as self-sufficient as possible,” he said.
“Sometimes I see individuals who we used to help at the grocery store or the movie theater, and it’s always great to see them moving on and doing well.”
More information about the program, or to volunteer or arrange for a donation, call 480-350-5890 or visit http://www.tempeaction.org/