As winter sets in, what’s being done to help Ontario County’s homeless people?
Volunteers have gathered new information and are using it to help people with nowhere to turn
By: Julie Sherwood
Shawn Oggaby isn’t looking for sympathy. But for nearly four months not long ago, when he was homeless, he would have welcomed the donation of a sleeping bag, a fast-food gift card and a backpack containing some necessities.
Earlier this month, Oggaby met some volunteers who are part of a growing movement to help the homeless in Ontario County. “Burgers and Bags” is the name of one of the projects in which volunteers are putting together donated items to create a survival kit for those without shelter. It contains a sleeping bag and other items that are then delivered to places in the county where people in need are likely to find them.
Ontario County has no homeless shelter. Volunteers Lynn Slomski, Donna Besler, Joy Pechler and Bill Pellicano, who are on a team helping to address the problem, talked about what is being done now — an especially crucial time with winter coming on. It includes circulation of bright yellow “Immediate Crisis Team” cards that contain phone numbers for Slomski and Pellicano, along with a call for donations. Requests include gift cards for fast-food restaurants; sleeping bags, blankets and tarps; hats, mittens and scarves; raincoats and ponchos; bus tokens; and footwear.
When he was homeless, Oggaby said it was mostly “every man for himself.” At Canandaigua Churches in Action, where a number of charities and a food cupboard are housed in downtown Canandaigua, Oggaby shared his experience, met the volunteers, and took a stack of Immediate Crisis Team cards to distribute. Knowing there is someone to call, “someone who cares,” means a lot when you are homeless, he said.
Oggaby, 33, became homeless after being released from jail, where he said he served time for driving while intoxicated and criminal mischief. The father of a young son, Oggaby said he now has a stable living situation rooming with a friend, holds a job helping an elderly man who lives in the area, and is seeing his son on a regular basis.
“I am trying to break a cycle,” said Oggaby. He has made some bad choices in his life, he admits. Now, he wants to set a good example for his boy, he said.
Besler said she likes being a part of the crisis team because its focus is getting people immediate help.
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