Beacon of Hope a haven from the cold

The snow might be an inconvenience for commuters, but it is a blight to the homeless, according to Steve Roe, Beacon of Hope men’s shelter director.

“This kind of weather is a breeze for them, because it’s not that cold, but it’s still a struggle for them to get to their camps,” Roe said. “I’ve witnessed where they’ve had two feet of snow piled up around their tents and just trying to survive. This time of year is very difficult for them.”

Caring for those in need during winter is fundamental to the shelter’s mission, Roe said.

“Part of the ministry that I’ve done for many years is, go to the camps along the river in Des Moines. And that’s how all of this started,” he said. “God had put it on my heart that people were dealing with a lot of problems and situations.”

The majority of people in camps, Roe said, are couples.

“They don’t want to be separated,” he said. “Because of the economy and life situations they have nowhere to go and so they are surviving. I guess they just survive. They just have to make the best of it, even tromping through all this snow and making a new path from the highway to their camp.”

When there is snow and cutting winds, it is not as simple for the homeless as just going to a shelter.

“Most of the shelters only allow them to stay three months,” Roe said. “Well, they’ve got to pick the months, what months are going to be the easiest. So there’s a lot of people out in the cold right now.”

The homeless aren’t without help or compassion, though.

“There’s ministries out there, like Joppa Ministries, that help to provide propane heaters for the homeless so that they can have some heat in their tents so they don’t freeze to death,” Roe said. “When we go to Des Moines, we take boots and winter coats, gloves. We take bedding, sleeping bags, pillows. We try to provide them with everything they need to be able to survive in this kind of weather.”

He added, “But that’s what it’s all about, survival.”

One of the ways the homeless survive, Roe said, is through their faith.

“Every time I asked them how they get through this, they just say they turn to God,” he said. “They can never make it if it wasn’t for God and people providing for their needs.”

Beacon of Hope is able to accommodate the increased numbers they receive during the winter, Roe said.

“At Christmastime we had to turn away two people because we were full, but since then we’ve expanded,” he said. “We’ve got eight more beds upstairs. We opened a side room where we’ve added four more beds, so we can accommodate 52 men now. Right now we haven’t had to turn anyone away.”

Helping others is a passion for Roe.

“God put it on my heart to love broken men,” he said. “The thing so many people don’t realize, every single man that comes here has an incredible story, a story of brokenness. There’s reasons why they’re homeless. It’s not that they just chose to be homeless. It was a dysfunction of abandonment, job situations, the economy and every single man has an incredible story.”

He added, “God put it on my heart to be able to help people who are going through a tough time, because he’s been good to me. He’s given me the ability to work through my issues, my own brokenness and I want to be able to give back to other people who once are where I was at.”