GREENSBORO, N.C. — Homeless awareness advocates in Greensboro are bracing for a rough winter.
“There’s people living in the woods all over the entire city,” explained Michele Forrest with StreetWatch, a local volunteer organization that collects and distributes supplies for homeless people.
Forrest says just because you can’t always see the homeless population in Greensboro does not mean it isn’t there.
“We know of dozens and dozens of camps, plus there’s two tent cities. But those are just probably a fraction,” said Forest, a fraction of the more than 1,000 homeless people in Guilford County on any given night.
Right now, StreetWatch is dangerously low on supplies.
Forrest says their shelves are usually stocked with food, tents, toiletries and blankets. Right now many of her shelves are empty.
“Having it cold this early in the season does worry me. We’ve had some rule changes in the winter shelters and we just have more people overall. We are expecting to see more people outside this winter,” she added.
The goal of StreetWatch is not only to distribute supplies like tents, tarps and food to homeless people but also build relationships with them.
“Homeless people are just like people who have homes. They want friendship, they want to talk to someone… Sometimes we sit for hours and talk just because someone is having a rough day,” said Forrest.
Forrest and her StreetWatch volunteers also bring people to appointments, court dates and even hospital visits if necessary.
One of Forrest’s friends is Sean Sarver, who lives in one of Greensboro’s tent cities.
“Survival. It’s not living anymore, it’s survival at this point,” said Sarver when asked about the upcoming cold weather.
Sarver says living in a community like a tent city is one way to alleviate some stress of cold winters. They often build fires together to keep warm and cook food.
Forest pointed out, “Local firefighters have even come down to teach them how to build safe fires. You can see they rake around the fire, only do it in open areas.”
People who live in the tent city also keep shovels nearby to cover flames.
“We don’t build fires on windy days,” added Sarver. “We’re not trying to burn our own house up. You don’t shoot yourself in the foot when you’ve got a five mile race to run.”
Sarver refuses to feel sorry for himself. “Anywhere I lay my head I’m at home. I’m house poor, not homeless.” He says he considers himself fortunate in many ways since he at least has a tent to call home.
Forrest said if you notice homeless people living near you, “Take them some food. Give them blankets… get to know them. I think step one is just getting to know people.”
Donations for StreetWatch can be taken to the lobby of the Greensboro Police Department at 2602 South Elm / Eugene Street.
For more information about StreetWatch vist: http://swgso.com/