A Haven for the Homeless

By CARA THOMAS

WARNER ROBINS, Ga.― A pastor and his wife are giving back to their community by providing homeless people a safe place to stay until they are able to get back on their feet.

The Rev. John H. Thomas and Isadora Thomas travelled the world and saw homelessness everywhere they went. In 1999, they decided they wanted to play an active role in ending homelessness.

Thomas, a retired Air Force veteran, has seen more of the world than the average citizen. He fought in the Vietnam War, and was stationed in many parts of Europe, Asia and the United States. While travelling he saw firsthand how poverty and homelessness was a problem worldwide. He and his wife both felt led to help those in need.

In 1995, Thomas built New Song Missionary Baptist Church in Warner Robins. As a pastor, he dealt with the problems of people from the community. He would pray with them and help in any way he knew how, but deep down Thomas knew there was more that he could do.

On Nov 9. 1999, Community Outreach Service Center for men opened its doors and began operations.

“We had no idea what we were doing, but our hearts were in the right place and we had the support of our community,” said Isadora Thomas.

The homeless shelter is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which means donations to the shelter are tax exempt. The shelter has a capacity to house 12 men. It is an emergency transition shelter that helps homeless men get back on their feet.

James Cooper, a former resident of the shelter, came to the homeless shelter in 2014. He said he had lost all hope and did not see things getting any better for himself.

“I heard some people mention the shelter and didn’t know what to expect,” Cooper said. “I thought it was just a place to stay. I didn’t know they’d help me look for a job, help me get my Medicare, and even once I was on my feet they still checked in on me.”

In 2006, Community Outreach Service Center expanded to include a women and children’s shelter. The women and children’s shelter houses eight singles and six families. Many members of the community donated materials to help build the shelter, and local companies donated household items and hygiene items for the women and children staying in the shelter.

Thomas built all the beds for the family style rooms, and he also built a playground behind the women and children’s shelter.

“You can tell he [Thomas] has a passion for what he’s doing,” said his wife. “He took his time building those beds and that playground. He personally wanted to give something to the residents of the shelter.”

The men’s shelter currently has eight residents and the women and children’s shelter is currently housing three singles and two families. The shelter holds fundraisers so that it can continue providing services, and it also receives money through donations and grants.

Thomas and his wife are now 73 years old and both still play an active role in the shelter’s daily operations.

“When you’re passionate about your work, it doesn’t feel like you’re working,” said Isadora Thomas. “It just makes you feel good.”

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Pastor John Thomas and Wife Isadora Thomas (photo by Cara Thomas)

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