Thursday Dec 24 2009
Davis is a driving force in helping homeless
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
Loomis resident volunteers behind the wheel for The Gathering Inn
Steve Davis, of Loomis, is doing his part to help the homeless in Placer County. Davis, a retired Rocklin schoolteacher, is one of the volunteer bus drivers for The Gathering Inn, a nomadic shelter housed inside local churches. Davis and other drivers shuttle up to 50 homeless people to different churches each night for a hot meal and a safe and warm place to sleep. “I have a very small part. I drive the bus,” Davis said. Davis said the homeless live on the outer fringes of society. He sees his role as “giving them compassion and treating them like people. “They feel sadly about being a class of people that are outsiders. They’d like to be included,” Davis said. “They’re human beings. It hurts them that they’re outcasts.” Davis, who is a member of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Rocklin, said all of his passengers have a story to tell that often includes a catastrophic event in their lives that leads to alcoholism. Some, he said, are mentally ill and others have just fallen on hard times and are out of work. Many, he said, come from very dysfunctional families. “What is surprising is how close you or I could be to their situation. I had a woman on the bus who was a San Francisco socialite. Her husband developed cancer and they spent their entire fortune on his medical care. When he died, she got depressed and began drinking and became an alcoholic.” Davis retired one year ago from his job as a science teacher at Johnson Springview Middle School in Rocklin. He said he knew the people who began the shelter program four years ago. “They needed bus drivers so I learned how to do it and got my license,” he said. Davis said drivers pick up the homeless at a Roseville location, where they can shower and get clean clothes, then drive them to a church. The guests are picked up in the morning and returned to Roseville. The Gathering Inn serves the homeless in Western Placer County, which includes the cities of Loomis, Rocklin, Roseville and Auburn. According to the organization’s Web site, a network of 60 churches act as inns for the homeless and provide them “with access to showering, clean clothes, hot meals, and a place to relax.” Participating churches in Loomis include Loomis Basin Congregational United Church of Christ, First United Methodist Church of Loomis and Shepherd of the Sierras Presbyterian Church. “It’s a temporary shelter. We try to transition them to getting services and housing. There are always new faces,” Davis said. Davis said those faces include families with children. According to Liz Nicholson, program director, The Gathering Inn serves 500 different homeless people during the course of a year. She said dozens of volunteers, plus 15 paid staff members work year-round to meet the need. Nicholson said that participants are prescreened and must be “clean and sober,” with random drug and alcohol tests given, they must pass Megan’s Law (not be a registered sex offender), and have a tuberculosis test. Davis said more bus drivers are needed to help ferry the homeless. He said prospects don’t need prior experience, just a willingness to learn and get licensed. “One does what one can,” Davis said.