Bringing the essentials: Community agencies assist homeless

McDowell Community Paramedics Sgt. Sam Robinson (left) and Sgt. Johnsie Parker (right) pictured with supplies from their assistance bags


Homeless people in McDowell have been – and can be – assisted with the help of local paramedics, the Department of Social Services and multiple community organizations.

From the beginning of January, members of McDowell EMS and McDowell DSS have been passing out sleeping bags and assistance bags to aid the homeless community in the county.

“McDowell County Community Paramedic Program is dedicated to helping citizens connect with resources to improve their health,” said McDowell EMS Sgt. Johnsie Parker, who said their initiative started two weeks ago. “We saw the overwhelming needs of these community members and we wanted to come alongside them and be their neighbors. So we decided, instead of waiting for people to reach out to us, we were going to go out into the neighborhoods and offer assistance.”

Parker said they offered assistance bags, the contents of which were toiletries, hats, gloves, food and other essentials.

“Once we saw the impact of those initial assistance bags,” said Parker, “we reached out to multiple community partners (such as Columbia Forest Products Caring Team) and faith based organizations that were more than willing to provide more assistance bags for our local homeless population.”

Concurrent to the Community Care Paramedics initiative, McDowell County DSS had been working on their own effort. In this case, the need for sleeping bags and hand warmers.

“We partnered with the Columbia Forest Products Caring Team, and I contacted Nikki Pittman, who is the PR person in Old Fort, and with the weather that was coming over the weekend, I asked them if they could possibly look at purchasing sleeping bags and HotHands,” said DSS Director Lisa Sprouse. “They agreed to do that, and they purchased about 10 sleeping bags for cold weather and close to 50-100 HotHands. I was asked graciously to go out primarily to where the folks were needed in the community, and these folks were practically homeless folks, and we had the privilege of doing that thanks to Columbia Forest Products.”

At least 30 in-need citizens were assisted during the entire month of January. Both Parker and Sprouse said their respective agencies plan to continue to reach out to those in need, provide assistance, and connect citizens with resources to improve their lives.

For citizens who need assistance, please call (828) 668-2271.

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