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When it's cold as hell

By Tony Ahern
   Publisher
   It doesn't dawn on me enough. Usually when I park my truck a bit too far from the front door of the warm supermarket. It's after work, dark. I grumble under my visible breath at the cold during that too-long parking lot walk of 100 feet or so. I have to tough out the elements, forced to carry my bag of frozen pizza, chips and drinks in my bare hands because, of course, I forgot my gloves at home. The tragedy.
   It definitely dawns on me then: it's cold as hell out, that is if hell was a cold place.
   I hustle into the truck, fire up the ignition, crank the heating until the digital readout says 90 degrees, then push the button to heat the leather seat. One can't have cold cheeks, now. How uncivilized.
   It doesn't take long to start warming up, and I'm soon on my way home, minutes away from a hot meal and hours from a warm bed.
   But driving down Fourth Street, I see a group of folks, two guys and a gal, walking on the sidewalk. Nothing out of the ordinary; seen them a couple of times that day, and several times in the days before that. They're homeless, or essentially homeless, and they're doing what they always seem to be doing: walking.
   Then I glance at my in-cab thermometer: it's three friggin' degrees outside. Cold as hell indeed.
   In today's paper, there's a story on page 1 inspired by these cold as hell days. It notes an officer who "arrested" a homeless man for littering, just to bring him in and keep him from freezing. The article also discusses what is available for homeless people when it's deadly cold outside.
   The Madras Gospel Mission, at its location across the highway from Bi-Mart, regularly helps homeless people fighting drug and alcohol abuse, and opens the door wider to let in many others needing shelter during the arctic spell. The Madras First Baptist Church opened a temporary shelter during the cold snap, as a backup to the mission.
   You folks, you volunteers, you do the work of angels.
   This community needs a regular homeless shelter, and we may be on the road to one, thanks to the Madras Gospel Mission. They're seeking to obtain the county-owned house on Sixth Street that was a women's shelter before lack of funding shut down that operation. The mission hopes to obtain the house -- buy it or rent it -- and operate a full-blown shelter. They also plan to keep some of the home reserved for women in need, which would re-open that important assistance.
   The county should do what it can to make the mission's goal a reality. The mission seems eager to do the all the work. Local government, and the rest of us in the community, should do what we can to help, and do nothing to hinder.
   All of us fortunate enough to leave our trusty work at 5 p.m., drive home on a heated seat to a hot meal and comfortable bed need to remember more often: it's cold as hell out there -- just a few feet beyond our comfortable worlds.