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Warmth, and maybe a little hope

Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneTerry Delarm searches for people who need coats Friday at Hawthorne Park in Medford.
Central Point woman offers up coats and whatever else she can to people on the streets

Concerned about a lack of resources for keeping homeless people warm during winter, Central Point resident Terry Delarm wanted to find a way to help, so she cleaned out her extra coats and warm clothing and rounded up some extras from area yard sales and online sales.

Her plan was to keep them in her car, and whenever she noticed someone on the streets or in local parks without warm-enough clothing, offer up a warm beanie, jacket or whatever else she could.

A big part of her motivation was a son who lives on the streets by choice, and he would often tell her of the level of need in the local homeless community.

“I always hoped, if it was my son out there and he needed a coat to keep warm ... somebody would help him, too,” Delarm said.

After a homeless man was found dead last month – 29-year-old Manuel Barboza-Valerio was found in December, his death attributed to hypothermia and unspecified medical issues — Delarm felt pulled to do even more.

Reaching out on social media and setting up collection bins at Food4Less where she works, Delarm said she will likely continue the effort on a year-round basis.

“With it being so cold, and then we lost that 29-year-old when it was freezing outside, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I felt like, we all as a community have got to do more than we’re doing to get these people into warm coats,” Delarm said.

“My son is out there on the streets by choice, and I worry about him all the time. I started going on Facebook (Marketplace). I got some donated, and I would buy some when I could. I just started giving them to anyone I saw who needed one. There has been a lot of need. I drive around, sometimes really late at night.”

Delarm said her son often rides with her to hand out coats and blankets. She regularly sees new faces and hears stories of struggle.

“The other day, I was on my way to work and there was a lady with no shoes on. She had on a thin blanket. By the time we got done talking, she had shoes on and she was wearing a coat. She was crying … and so was I,” Delarm added.

“It all really got me to thinking. I see so many ugly comments, but it doesn’t matter why someone is homeless. Everyone is entitled to be warm and feel cared about.”

Closure in September of Compassion Highway Project, which provided food, warm clothing and other resources in the community since 2014, has created more need than ever before, Delarm noted.

Porscha Dawn Parker, who lives in Medford and saves extra supplies of warm clothing in her work with upcycling items, was happy to learn of Delarm’s efforts.

“I buy used clothing all the time and try to clear out a couple times a year and just donate it. I saw on the news the poor guy froze to death out there, and then right after that I saw that Terry was looking for donations to try and help,” Parker said.

“I think everyone has extra items sitting around that they can share. Especially as cold as it’s been, and with Compassion Highway closing. It’s just a really sad time, and there are lots of people that need the help. It’s hard to think of people outside freezing to death.”

Beyond a warm coat, shoes or gloves, Delarm said she’s also trying to offer a small bit of hope.

“I had a mom who saw on Facebook what I was doing, and she contacted me and asked if I could please find her son for her and give him some warm stuff to wear and make sure he was OK,” Delarm said.

“I thought for sure I wouldn’t be able to find him, but I kept an eye out. Then, the craziest thing, I found her son on what was a really, really cold night, and he wasn’t wearing a coat. I pulled my car over and asked if he needed one, and he let me help.”

Delarm said while she can’t solve all the problems of the world, she can at least do her part.

“I know that just giving them a coat doesn’t solve all their problems,” she added. “But it solves one of them.”

Donations of new and gently used, clean coats can be dropped off at Food4Less in Medford.

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.