Day workers bear bitter temperatures
SPRING VALLEY Ã¢â‚¬â€ The three men stand huddled in the parking lot of a halal restaurant along Route 59, heads down, hands in pockets.
Every few minutes, at the roar of a truck approaching, they look up, the expressions on their faces nearly identical. It is one of curiosity and almost longing.
The truck represents a job opportunity, the possibility of paintwork, construction or perhaps someone who needs help moving.
But this truck and the other one before it drives past them, and once again their heads are bowed and their hands in their pockets.
Germon Morales of Spring Valley uses a napkin to wipe his red and runny nose.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Not now, not cold, I feel good,Ã¢â‚¬? the 42-year-old says of how heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s handling the bitter chill.
He translates for friend Jose Rolando, 29 of Spring Valley.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“My friend says one jacket is cold, two jackets is fine,Ã¢â‚¬? he says with a chuckle.
Jose Garvez, a joker, shows off his four layers Ã¢â‚¬â€ a black jacket, a plaid jacket, a gray sweatshirt and a bright orange T-shirt. He wore the same thing yesterday, he says.
Was he cold?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Not now,Ã¢â‚¬? the 32-year-old Spring Valley man says proudly.
However, yesterday he says, Ã¢â‚¬Å“was very cold.Ã¢â‚¬?
The group has been standing at the lot between South Central Avenue and Hopf Drive since 8 a.m. It is about 11:35 a.m. and 20 degrees out. If no jobs are offered, they will be there until about 5 p.m.
Morales says with the exception of looking for a better spot with less competing day laborers, they rarely leave the area.
But if they do need to warm up, they know where to go.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sometimes inside the food market, sometimes inside the laundry,Ã¢â‚¬? he says.
Down the road, St. PaulÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Episcopal Church, which hosts the Jornaleros Project, offers refuge from the freezing temperatures to day workers.
There, the men are served hot coffee and donated pastries from Panera Bread.
Jenny Conway, coordinator of the program, and Tom McCabe, who teaches an English class, say while the cold weather offers some shoveling jobs, most of the men who do landscaping work are left with few options.
So, instead, they come to St. PaulÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s for coffee and conversation, dominoes and computer games. Others take advantage of the free ESL classes.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“At least itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s warm, they get to play dominoes, socialize with friends,Ã¢â‚¬? McCabe says of the church.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“And get out of the cold,Ã¢â‚¬? Conway adds.