TOLEDO — Gail Nelums was pleased when she checked out her new haircut Saturday morning, neatly trimmed thanks to volunteers at Tent City.
She has a place to stay in North Toledo, but she was eager to check out other Tent City offerings at Civic Center Mall in downtown Toledo, including the clothing giveaway and dental services.
“I think it’s really beautiful what they do for the people of Toledo, Ohio,” said Ms. Nelums, 60, who was born and raised in the city and recently returned after two years away. “It’s my first time here and I am really enjoying it.”
The weekend event convenes a bevy of social and medical services, food, and entertainment for the area’s homeless and underserved. It is organized by 1Matters.
Doctors, nurses, and medical professionals from across Toledo’s health system gathered inside the medical tent to provide a wide range of medical exams and services, including cardiac care, women’s health, dental, vision, and podiatry.
In between the serious business of feeding the hungry and performing potentially live-saving medical examinations, there are the joyful outbursts of face-painted children and spontaneous dance parties. The fun and services began Friday and runs through Sunday morning.
About a dozen people sat in chairs placed in a circle around a metallic fire pit Friday night. Some chatted, some just smoked and took in warmth against wind gusts chilling the 50-degree evening.
Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz also slept at Tent City late Friday through the early morning hours of Saturday.
Teddy Sadowy, 37, has a place to stay, but visited Tent City because he wants others to be aware that people are homeless. The mayor, he said, “can help get some of these people off the streets, get them housing.”
Daniel Carter, 54, skilled at a variety of card tricks, was impressed with the mayor’s friendliness — just stepping up and introducing himself.
“I’m just walking around making friends,” Mayor Kapszukiewicz said.
He helped at past editions of Tent City, which began the year he graduated from high school, 1990. By 9:30 p.m. Friday, at least six dome-type tents were set up on the lawn of Civic Center Mall, between the county jail and the Safety Building. Mr. Kapszukiewicz didn’t bring shelter, instead planning to lean against a tree and snooze.
“This year as mayor, I thought about it and thought it important to stay here all night,” the mayor said. “There are people who struggle every single day being outdoors, under benches, under bridges.”