Jubilee a safe spot for homeless, mentally ill

The number of Carson City's homeless and mentally ill who seek refuge in the 765-square-foot Jubilee Center has grown to 448 since it opened two years ago.

"Our average attendance is between 25 to 35 a day," said Jean Roberts, the center's executive director.

Now that snow and ice have made the outside inhospitable, Carson area's homeless and mentally ill are eager to come in.

"Most of them come in between 10 and 1," she said. "They're coming off the streets to try and get warm and get something in their bellies."

While the number of people using the center has grown steadily, community support in the way of donations and financial contributions hasn't kept pace.

Part of the reason, according to Roberts, is the stigma attached to homelessness and misconceptions.

"There has been a feeling that a lot of the people here are capable of having a job, but they're just sort of here hanging out. That is just not the case. The people I have here on a regular basis are people who are really not capable of holding jobs."

Roberts says the purpose of the center is to provide a loving place where people with a mental illness can be comfortable and safe.

Between Lamplighters Bar and Les' Barber Shop on Winnie Street, Cheryl Gorman has found such a place.

"Jubilee has been very helpful for me," she said Friday, sitting on a couch at the center. "I have a mental illness. I am in recovery for drugs and alcohol."

Gorman, who lives with her husband, Jeff, and daughter Jackie, 12, said she can be lonely when her husband is working and her daughter is at school.

"Isolation is not good for me," she said.

Gorman helps out around the center, doing things like signing up new members.

She puts their member number on top of the card (449 is next), then the date and their name. Then the new member and Jean Roberts sign the card.

"Then you put that turkey in there," explains Gorman as she puts the card in the card box, "and boom, you're a member."

She said she has learned a lot since joining the center.

"The first time I did this, I screwed it up. I didn't know how to do it. But I learned. I learned from other people by watching them."

She gives thanks to volunteers Pat and Al Parona from St. Peter's Episcopalian Church and Roberts for their support.

"Pat, Al and Jean -- they're all outstanding," she said, giving a thumbs up. "They don't judge people down here. I have real bad panic attacks, but they make me feel comfortable."

Pat Parona is happy to help.

"This is a place where you get about a 10-fold return on your time," she said. "There are times when I come in here feeling blah and I leave feeling just ... yeah!" She swings both fists together with a huge grin.

Other volunteers come from St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church, Corpus Christi Catholic and more recently the First Presbyterian and First United Methodist churches. The St. Phillips Guild at St. Teresa's made a basket of stocking stuffer bags for members this year.

"As Christians, we're asked to minister to people who are homeless or need to be fed, and Jubilee certainly falls into that category," said Roberts. She is eager to make presentations on the center to any interested churches.

A recurring theme at the center is the feeling of family unity among members.

When describing the Christmas Party for Jubilee members at St. Peter's Church on Christmas Day, Roberts said, "Jubilee is my family. Our family's going to be together on Christmas Day."

Gorman said, "This is my second family. Jubilee is my family."

She also said that she gives back to the center. "Every once in a while when my husband and I have extra money, we say, 'Jean, this is a gift for Jubilee from the Gormans.' Because, you know, what comes around goes around."

You Can Help

To make a donation, volunteer or become a member of the Jubilee Center, call 841-3988 or 882-3132

If You Go

What: Christmas party for Jubilee members

When: Christmas Day, 1 p.m.

Where St. Peter's Church Episcopal church, 882-1534


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