Craig Smith gets up every morning at 5 a.m. and heads to a temp agency, hoping someone will need a laborer for a day.
A trained carpenter, finding work wasn't too hard until Smith hurt his knee. Now, he has a hard time climbing a ladder for more than one day at a time if he's lucky enough to find work at all.
Friday morning was like so many others for Smith, who calls his car home. He awoke to a cold morning and again tried to find work to no avail. If he "had a 100 bucks and a full tank of gas, I'd be gone." But he doesn't, so he did what he does most days and headed to the Jubilee Center, a day drop-in center on Winnie Lane aimed at giving the homeless and mentally ill a living room for a day.
"It's clean; you can do lots of stuff," Smith said. "There would be times I wouldn't eat if I didn't come here."
Just over a year ago, Jubilee Director Jean Roberts opened the doors to the center hoping to create a living room away from a living room for those needing a "nice, warm, comfortable place" to stay for a day. The center, a project championed by St. Peter's Episcopal Church, now serves 159 with up to 30 walking through the doors daily for a muffin, cup of coffee or juice and company. The center is staffed five days a week by volunteers, many from St. Peter's.
"Most of the people who walk through that door are homeless," she said. "We ask no questions. Our doors are open to everyone. They've passed the word on and most people say, 'We can't believe there's a place like this in Carson City.'"
Milling about the small, living-room like center Friday, it was clear a family-like atmosphere had blossomed among the members and volunteers. Some sat watching a movie on television or reading a newspaper, while another engaged Jubilee volunteer Linda Goldsmith in a game of chess. Meredith Clark and Bill Cordero sat making jewelry.
"It means everything to me," Cordero said. "I don't have to go to a casino for a cup of coffee, don't have to hunt up a few dollars for coffee. It's the most meaningful place I've found."
Jimmy and Morgen Lynch, who met at Jubilee, came by to announce they had just been married. Morgen Lynch had a period of temporary homelessness around September. She lived for a couple of months at Focus House, but had no place to go in the morning before going to work at Denny's around 2 p.m. She found Jubilee, and met her husband on Dec. 6.
"Jimmy is an answer to all the prayers I ever had," Morgen Lynch said. "The love is strong. It was just like it was meant to be."
The couple came by to take some photos for the wall, likely the first of many, Roberts noted.
"This has become my family," she said.
"They're like our mother and fathers," Steven Lakey agreed. "They're blessed people. We're all going through hard times. We're hard workers, but we can't find work. It's OK because we have Jubilee."
Volunteers Goldsmith, of Glenbrook, and Laura Main, of Carson City, are among about 40 volunteers who spend at least one day a week at the center.
Seeing people who just needed a little help made me want to help," Goldsmith said. "I like what happens here. I think this is a good place for people to come. It's safe and clean. We can talk. I get chess lessons for free, and I get beaten at cribbage."
For Sean Sumner, attending Jubilee literally has been a life-altering experience. Disabled in an accident 10 years ago, Sumner moved to Carson City about six years ago and has been in the Carson City jail "more times than I care to remember" on drug charges. Homeless and bored, he had nothing else to do but spend any money he earned on alcohol and drugs, he said.
"It's a safe haven and keeps me out of trouble," Sumner said. "This is a kind of security for us. This gives me something to occupy my mind. I want to stay out of jail. I gave up my criminal past times when I found this."
He's taking classes in welding at Western Nevada Community College, hoping to learn a trade to further change his life.
With so many people in and out, Roberts would eventually like to move to a larger location, one that could accommodate cots.
"The hardest thing for me is to close that door at 5 p.m. and know I'm going to a warm home and they are not," Roberts said. "It breaks my heart, but they tell me, 'Don't worry about it.'"
Christmas Day, Roberts will open the doors for a special dinner for her "family." St. Peter's parishioners snapped up tags from a Jubilee tree at the church in just three hours to help give some of the Jubilee members a Christmas.
"I enjoy their faces when they come up to me and say, 'I can't believe there's a place like this in Carson City," Roberts said. "That's what Jubilee is. That's what we do."
The Jubilee Center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 258 West Winnie Lane, one block west of North Carson Street. Call 841-3988 for information.