The Carbondale Warming Center provides services to Carbondale’s homeless and needy population

Carmalita+Cahill%2C+the+Executive+Director+at+the+Carbondale+Warming+Center%2C+poses+for+a+portrait+Aug.+15%2C+2021

Kylen Lunn | [email protected]

Carmalita Cahill, the Executive Director at the Carbondale Warming Center, poses for a portrait Aug. 15, 2021

The Carbondale Warming Center, first opened in December of 2019, was originally intended to be a 12 hour facility, according to director Carmalita Cahill. Since then, the Center has expanded into a 24 hour facility that has served 50,000 meals since opening their doors.

“We offer a place to stay, as well as providing three meals a day,” Cahill said. “We also do case management referrals to other programs, we have a jobs program should people need it.”

The Carbondale Warming Center routinely assists dozens of community locals. However, with the Covid-19 pandemic still ongoing, they must make use of disposable flatware and silverware, keeping them  on the lookout for additional donations.

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“We use paper cups, styrofoam cups, styrofoam plates, paper plates, plastic silverware, paper towels… those things are always welcome,” Cahill said.

(Pictured from left to right) Elder Perkes, Elder Bartholomew, Kara Dunkel, Sister Jessie Ellsworth, and Leah Spurlock, are volunteers from the The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, helping the Carbondale Warming Center move furniture and sort through clothes that have been donated. Kylen Lunn | [email protected]

The Carbondale Warming Center works with more than a dozen community organizations and churches throughout the Southern Illinois area, from religious organizations including the Bethel Feed My Sheep program and the Sisters of the Mosque, to local businesses like Crispy Crunchy and Casey’s. They also work alongside other charity organizations like the Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless and Housing Action Illinois.

“It’s an enormous list… and what it shows, I think, is the heart and the spirit of the people of Carbondale. Refer to us as proof of humanity, dignity and empathy in action,” Cahill said. “The Warming Center relies heavily on its community support for its daily needs and views the community of Carbondale as “a compassionate city,” Cahill said.

You can see the community efforts in action when you visit the center, she said. 

“You can come here at any given time, because we’re only here, and have accomplished what we’ve accomplished based on what the people in our community want to do for others in their community,” Cahill said. 

The center has played a crucial part in distributing  COVID-19 as well. 

“I think we’ve gotten some folks vaccinated that wouldn’t be vaccinated otherwise,” Cahill said. “We started hand washing before it was trending, and you just have more of a concern for their general well being than you would otherwise.”

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Upon arriving at the center, workers encourage those needing aid to come up with long term goals to work towards, according to regular volunteer Ladeejah Boulden. 

(Pictured from left to right) Sister Jessie Ellsworth and Leah Spurlock, volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints helping sort through and fold clothes donated to the Carbondale Warming Center. Kylen Lunn | [email protected]

“Every day I’m really checking in with everyone, seeing how they’re doing on their goals, whether it’s asking them if they have an upcoming interview or anything like that,” Boulden said.

Mental health is also a priority at The Carbondale Warming Center.

“A lot of people have depression or anxiety, so just trying to manage that and checking in with their health is a priority,” Boulden said.

Individuals that seek help from the Warming Center can also take advantage of resources that aid the transition from homelessness to housing.Those with disabilities can also use them to find supportive or assisted living housing.

The Carbondale Warming Center is constantly adapting to changing circumstances. 

Cooling services have been provided throughout the current heat wave and preparations have been made to accommodate those who have been evicted and will continue to be evicted during the moratorium period set by President Joe Biden.

“We’re nothing without our community,” Cahill said. “We’re nothing but a building with some folks in it without the community that we have. So it’s all of these places and these people that have opened their hearts and then said ‘this is where I can put my effort in’ in their own way and we are eternally grateful.”

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