BOISE, Idaho — Those experiencing homelessness spent Christmas Eve night patiently waiting in near-freezing temperatures for a warm meal, a comfy hat, and some good company.
Executive Director of Interfaith Sanctuary Jodi Peterson-Stigers told KTVB that following their Thanksgiving meals offered at the warming shelter in November, there was a spike of COVID-19 cases throughout the homeless populations. In order to make their annual Christmas eve dinner go on, they had to make some changes.
“We had to regroup after Thanksgiving, inside the building it turned out not to be highly effective, so we realized we were going to have to do Christmas eve outside,” she explained.
A Christmas Eve dinner outside in 34-degree weather during a global pandemic was a task the shelter never thought they would have to undertake, but they did so out of necessity.
Peterson-Stigers called out to the community, asking for help in donations while they consider the number of resources the shelter needed to make the dinner safely happen.
“'Hey, this is what we need to do to make sure that Christmas Eve is not stolen from our shelter, this is the help we need,' and it happened,” she said. “I think some people are just waiting to be a part of it, I think everyone wants to ensure that our most vulnerable populations has joy this season”.
Local community members and business owners came together to donate outdoor heaters, beanies, and even some cash to give to those in need.
Peterson-Stigers said the interfaith community of Mormons, Jewish and Muslims, typically have Christmas Eve dinner at the shelter and this year they decided to help the shelter with funding.
With their funding, the shelter supported local Mexican restaurant Andrades to cater the event. Even during a pandemic where many people are struggling themselves, Peterson-Stigers said, they helped out in any way they could.
The amount of support the shelter has seen this year, she said has been greater than ever before.
“This holiday season is not easy for many people who have homes because they can’t be with the ones they love and they can’t do the traditions the way that they do and then you take that to the next level and not only can our guests not be with the ones they love, they have no home to go to," she said. "Get out of your house, get in front of someone who's not doing as well as you, and it will lift you up."