Adding Quality of Life to Homeless Overflow Shelters

This information was supplied by Anthony’s Plot, which is doing stellar work in providing overnight accommodations when other shelters have no room at their inns.


Anthony’s Plot Community

11:01pm Feb 13

Greetings from inside First Baptist Church on this snowy winter night. Our city rests a little more easily on a night like tonight because those who are most vulnerable are safe and warm in three of our churches, tended to by some of our church and community members. This night may be one of clearest examples of the work we have done together: whereas Greensboro and Charlotte are scrambling to care for their homeless citizens, leaving church and community groups nervous about what this weather means for the “least of these” in their parishes, we are simply continuing our daily effort to make sure all are cared for as we would want to be. Not often you get to say that finding shelter for 95 homeless people on a snowy and dangerous night is “just another day.” We are thankful.

As I hope you have heard by now, we are making some very exciting changes to the way we have been serving our homeless guests at the overflow shelters. We are sending these emails out to explain what those changes are, and to encourage you to begin talking amongst your congregation or community group about your increasingly important role in this work.

• The Vision: As we often see in our congregations, smaller groups allow for deeper relationships. We think this same approach will help us offer our best care to our shelter guests (and we have seen some evidence of this at Augsburg this winter). By getting our guest numbers lower, we can tend to each person’s needs more directly (and express our love more clearly) and not expend our energy in “crowd control.” Also, state zoning law requires us to have a 20-guest capacity at each shelter. This also will mean smaller groupings (clusters) of congregation and community groups working at a specific location, which will help us to deepen our relationships with one another (and makes us more accountable to each other).

• The Model: Starting Friday, we will have five overflow shelters open, each with less than 20 guests: New Story UMC, First Baptist, Augsburg Lutheran, First Presbyterian, and St Timothy’s Episcopal. Each shelter site has 8-12 congregation and community partners, each of whom are critical to serving their guests. You will probably think of additional congregation or community groups who you would like to involve with your cluster; just make sure they are not already assigned to another cluster. You will also have the support of trained monitors and Anthony’s Plot to help fill in monitor spots as needed. Amongst ourselves, we need to figure out how to feed and shelter these guests each night. This means that you can tell volunteers where and whom they will be serving every night. All food will be served at the shelter site now, and our food needs are down to 20meals/night – this leaves room for thinking about hot meals, if we can work that out.

• The Needs: For those who can view the volunteer calendar, you will notice that there are more calendars and less volunteers listed on each. There is a specific calendar for Location-Feb and another for Location-Mar. We need to become aware of the holes in all of these calendars and begin working to fill them with our folks. In particular, there are overnight holes in the next 2 weeks that we should try to fill if possible. There are updated congregational resources attached to this email that you can use to re-engage your people. (The volunteer brochure is meant to be printed front and back as a “manual” of sorts. It also has a link, though the pages are out of order: )

• What’s Next: There is an open meeting about the new cluster-model on Thursday, February 20th at 9am at Centenary UMC. This is a chance to discuss some nuts and bolts stuff, and to encourage clusters to plan a time when you all can meet together – be looking for that information shortly after. But don’t wait to sign people up; we need to get new people on the calendar soon!

Ok, now its up to you all to be active: let’s start talking about what each cluster needs and how we are going to fill them. Thank you for your commitment and investment in this shared work and in the lives of those we are being led to serve.


About compassionatews

Think of a giant umbrella. Under that umbrella are all of the programs and acts of compassion that we see – and don’t see – around us in Winston-Salem.
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