By Buffy Pollock
for the Mail Tribune
CENTRAL POINT — After he rushed to the aid of a homeless man Tuesday night, performing CPR and possibly saving the man’s life, 50-year-old John Lopes said the importance of a warming station on Pine Street became even more apparent for him than it had already been.
Formerly homeless himself, Lopes remembers his first few visits to the Calvary Temple facility four years ago. Down on his luck and camping in ice-covered bushes along the Bear Creek Greenway, Lopes had little hope for a job and knew resources for the homeless were limited.
When the Calvary Neighborhood Outreach warming station opened in 2009, after a homeless man was found frozen to death in Medford, Lopes and friends he camped with decided to give it a try.
Lopes says the church offers a safe place to get warm, and get a hot meal, needed supplies and a small amount of hope during the hardest time of year to stay alive for those living outside.
Had the warming station been closed on Tuesday, Lopes fears the man who collapsed, known only as Bret, would not have survived.
“It had been snowing like crazy, so it’s been real cold. He came in Tuesday night and he didn’t look right. He was wheezing, and you could tell something wasn’t OK,” Lopes said.
“When he walked outside, he was kind of holding his chest. I went to get some water in case he started walking back inside. When he came back through the door he just fell to the ground. I ran over and just started pumping his chest, and someone called 911.”
A carpenter by trade, Lopes said CPR training had been mandatory on a number of union work sites he’d worked at. While grateful to have CPR skills, Lopes said the warming station being open — after closure last year because of community concerns — was even more crucial in saving the man’s life.
“What if he had been alone, sleeping under a bridge somewhere?” Lopes asked.
Working fairly regularly and renting his own house, Lopes spends much of his free time at the warming station or at the church’s food pantry, and he said he hopes local residents will understand the value of what the church provides.
City police said last week that community concerns about the facility had largely been resolved and that increased police presence had mitigated most issues. Police Chief Kris Allison said few complaints have been received this winter, adding that regular patrols around the facility were meant to ensure safety for all citizens.
“Our concern is public safety and proper supervision, so we’ve done increased patrols in the area, which we would do whether there were complaints or not,” said the chief.
“We’re supportive of anything that helps people in our community, and we want to make sure we’re meeting the needs of everyone in our community — the homeless and our other residents and business owners.”
Church volunteer Paul Tucker, who helped start the warming station with his mother, pastor Marilyn Tucker, said seeing people such as Lopes “make it out” (of homelessness) illustrate why the facility is so needed.
“The day (Lopes) walked in those doors, I said, Keep your eye on him,’ ” said Tucker this week.
“He’s been through everything they’ve been through, so he really knows how to help. He’s lived at my house twice, finally landed on his feet, knows all the resources people need, and he’s here giving back to other people three nights a week — and if we needed him five nights, he’d be here five.”
Lopes said he hopes the community will continue to support the facility.
“They come in when it’s 46 degrees, and four hours later it’s 28 degrees. We can’t send people outside to freeze to death,” Lopes said.
“What they did for me, I’ll never forget it. I used to be about getting inside and making a buck. Now it’s about helping people — giving other people the same opportunity to make it out. I know it’s possible, so I want other people to have a chance. I know we couldn’t do it without this place.”
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.