Anne Marie Noble sits with Mark Minadeo at the Haven’s warming center in the Immaculate Conception Parish Hall on Wednesday. Minadeo, who currently does not have access to stable housing, said he’d be sleeping on the street if it weren’t for the warming center. Michael Indriolo/The Portager
The Haven opens warming center as cold snap and blizzard sweep over Portage County
The Haven of Portage County is providing shelter and meals to those experiencing homelessness during winter weather since last week
Bracing for sub-freezing temperatures and this week’s snow storm, The Haven of Portage County opened up a warming center in Ravenna last week for those without access to housing and heat, but only a handful of people have come in from the cold so far.
The center has been providing heated shelter and warm meals from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. nearly every day since Feb. 8 at the Immaculate Conception Parish Hall on Spruce Street in Ravenna. It has so far served approximately 10 people total, with some coming in repeatedly, and will remain open through this Friday.
“There are more people on the streets than meets the eye,” said Anne Marie Noble, the Haven’s executive director, in an interview Feb. 7. “With this cold snap coming, I don’t know if anybody will show up, but we’re certainly going to be there and be open and be available for them.”
Noble didn’t know exactly why more people haven’t come to the warming center. She spread the word about it through local agencies who work with people experiencing homeless, but said some people living in tents may be hesitant to leave for fear of their belongings being taken or vandalized.
With temperatures dropping into the single digits Tuesday night, Noble anticipated more people. Because she doesn’t want to turn anyone away, center volunteers have allotted quarantine spaces for those who come in with elevated temperatures, as checked by volunteers. Noble also said she would refer people who appear sick to medical services but has not had to do so yet.
Mark Minadeo, 28, of Ravenna, said without the warming center he would likely be looking for a spot on the street to keep warm. He had come to the center last Monday and returned almost every night since, though he’s gotten used to staying outside in the cold, he said.
Seeing the center open shows him that people do genuinely care about those experiencing homelessness, he said.
“There are people going through a rough time that can’t help it at the moment,” he said. “They need some kind of support or help, and it’s just really cool that something like this is open right now.”
Minadeo has been living without stable housing since October 2019 when he was kicked out of his stepfather’s house. He subsequently lost the job he had and has been struggling to get back on his feet ever since, he said.
In late 2019, he temporarily moved into an apartment with some people who’d been homeless at the same time he was. He needed a place to stay for the winter, but he didn’t know before moving in that the people living there were suffering from addiction disorders. He didn’t want to be around drugs, so the following spring, he moved out of the apartment and back on the streets.
“Sometimes, it’s not as easy as just going to get a job,” he said. “That’s what people usually say about homeless people: ‘Oh, just go get a job.’ It’s not that easy. You know, a lot of us don’t have a place to live or wash our clothes, shower, eat. It just discourages me to even want to try to do anything.”
But Minadeo is trying. He’s on a list for public housing in Portage County and works with an agent at Coleman Professional Services. He’s also planning to stay at a friend’s apartment soon. He looks forward to getting his life together again, he said, so he can meet his 7-year-old daughter for the first time.
“In my head, it’s simply just being able to unlock my own door to go into my own place,” Minadeo said. “Shower and be able to wash my clothes. Go to sleep, wake up, go to work and do that over again.”
The Haven’s warming center is still looking for volunteers and donations. For more information, contact Anne Marie Noble at (330) 990–4949
This article was produced through a reporting partnership with the Collaborative News Lab @ Kent State University.
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