A Searcy nonprofit that has been around since 2011 is keeping a dozen homeless warm during the cold, icy and snowy conditions.
“We currently have 12 people, six of whom we brought in from the cold,” said Mike Phifer, who took over running Mission Machine in 2014 with Josh Stewart and others. “We haven’t had this weather probably in a decade.”
“We actually have a new container now. It has a shower and bathrooms in it and laundry. We have heaters out there [at Mission Machine’s camp on the Arkansas Highway 13 bypass]. We can put some folks at the container and put some folks at our North Main location, which we call the clinic. It’s Christian Health Ministries but we got a men and women’s trailer out there that we keep elderly people in.”
Mission Machine also loaded up on groceries, Phifer said. There were some homeless staying in tents near that Walmart Supercenter that the nonprofit helped, he noted.
Phifer said Mission Machine usually works with the United Methodist Church to provide a warming center, but did not want to put the volunteers at risk this time because of the weather.
“Safety is first and we don’t want our volunteers getting hurt,” he said.
When the roads were clear Sunday, Phifer said, Mission Machine went out to look for those who needed help staying warm.
“We got a lot of calls about a guy staying under the overpass by the old Walmart Distribution Center,” he said. “We went out and checked and he wasn’t there. We had a police officer tell us about it and rechecked and he still wasn’t there.”
When it comes to age groups of those who are out in the cold looking for warmth, Phifer said “it’s a cross section.” He said those who regularly panhandle will go back to their camp when it warms up.
Residents have donated items to keep those at the camp warm. Phifer said these included toboggans and blankets.
Those who volunteer for Mission Machine are “great-hearted people,” Phifer said. “We’ve got a great board, people who just really care about humanity. I myself was homeless at one time and I feel that God has really turned my life around.”