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Denison church opening its doors to the homeless for cold nights

Published: Feb. 11, 2021 at 10:44 PM CST
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DENISON, Texas (KXII) - A Denison man and his dog have been homeless for over three years.

Leland Jensen said he fell asleep in a park in Las Vegas and when he woke up his wallet, along with all his money and his dog were gone.

Ever since he said life has “been a nightmare.”

“I was camped behind a Walmart in Las Vegas and there were these guys doing this plumbing at the store next door and they’d sit out back and have lunch,” Leland said. “So I was dumpster diving one day and this man came up and handed me a $20 and said ‘you and your dog get something to eat.’”

To which Jensen responded, “Thank you, but what I could really use is a job.”

So the man in Las Vegas gave him a shot. Jensen showed up at 7 am the next day to work on a house. After about a week, the man started letting Jensen sleep at the house so he had a place to stay.

After about a month and a half of working, and earning the praise of the other workers on the site, the man told Jensen he was welcome to tag along for their trip back home to Texas.

Since September, he’s been living in a shed behind the man’s contracting shop in Denison with a hot plate for cold nights like tonight for himself and his best friend, his dog Lady Bug.

“I got to stay out of trouble for her,” Jensen said. “I go to jail, she goes to the pound.”

With temperatures plummeting down to the low 20′s in parts of Texoma Thursday, Jensen said he’s thankful for his current living situation.

But for others without a roof over their heads tonight, and going forward if these weather conditions stick, St. Luke Episcopal in Denison is opening their doors providing just that, plus a hot meal.

“The coffee pot will be on all night long,” said Father Don Perschell.

Thursday was the first night the family shelter has re-opened their warming center because of the frigid temperatures.

“They are part of our family, we are part of them,” Perschell said. “They know us, they know this is a safe place to be.”

The warming center started two years ago because the church wanted to provide those on the street a place to stay for when temperatures get dangerously low.

“When they arrive, if they don’t have a mask, we’re going to give them a mask,” Perschell said. “They’re going to be given an opportunity to find a space here in the hall and they won’t have to worry about somebody crowding in.”

Snacks are also available.

The church used to run a clothing outlet establishment that served over 1,600 people over a day-and-a-half period before the pandemic, but with the cold weather expected to stay until at least Monday they want everyone to know their doors are open.

People can stay overnight at the church until 7 am the following morning. From there they can go over to the soup kitchen where Center Cross Ministry serves breakfast.

The shelter is funded completely through donations to the church. Before the pandemic Per-shall said they were feeding around 100 people a night. Now it’s down to about forty.

“We have people that sit down and want to play cards,” Perschell said. “We’ve had people sit and find a place and hunker down and fall asleep. They just want to be who they are and it’s as varied as the individual.”

Perschell said the operation is a “joint effort” with other churches in the area.

For Jensen, he said most shelters aren’t an option because dogs aren’t allowed. But with a roof over his head tonight he knows he’ll make it until morning.

“It could be so much worse. I couldn’t imagine being in some little thin tent with no cover, you know, and the wind whipping through,” Jensen said.

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