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Wednesday, January 5, 2005

SU Center Coordinates Community Emergency Shelter Project

SALISBURY, MD---Last winter all shelters in the tri-county area were filled to capacity during freezing weather.  Many homeless were turned away, leading to health problems and, in at least three cases, death.

The Community Winter Shelter Project, coordinated by Salisbury University’s Center for Family and Community Life, has been established in hopes of preventing that this year.

“An estimated 40 people—10 percent of the area’s recorded homeless—could not find protection from the cold when area shelters reached capacity last winter,” said Brenda Jorden of the SU center. Because this overflow homeless population had no place to go, the sisters of Joseph House took emergency action.

“There were freeze warnings on the news and reminders to bring your pets indoors, but human beings had nowhere to go,” said Sister Connie Ladd. “We couldn’t turn them away.”

Though creating a tremendous strain on their already stretched resources and staff, the Joseph House’s part-time day shelter became an emergency 24-hour shelter for several months in early 2004. Under the leadership of adjunct social work faculty Clare Weaver, SU students conducted a study to determine how local agencies could coordinate their efforts for the homeless, preventing similar events in the future.

This fall, provided with funds from the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, the Center for Family and Community Life coordinated the Community Emergency Shelter Project involving local church congregations, faith-based shelter organizations, the Life Crisis Center and the Tri-County Alliance for the Homeless. The SU center provides program coordination volunteer training for the project.

Overnight emergency shelter is offered through the project from January-March 2005. Church congregations, supported by project members, commit to become “host sites,” providing overnight shelter (5 p.m.-7 a.m.), meals and hospitality to the homeless on a rotating basis at their facilities for a week at a time.

Three trained volunteers are present each night shelter is offered. The congregations of St. Peter’s Episcopal, Asbury United Methodist, Allen Memorial Baptist and Bethesda United Methodist churches have already committed to hosting the emergency shelter for two weeks each in addition to making monetary donations. Other congregations and organizations have provided financial support and volunteer commitment. However, additional host churches are still needed to fill the dangerous winter months. Host churches must be able to accommodate approximately 25 people.

The first volunteer training is Wednesday, January 5, at St. Peter’s Church. Host churches are scheduled as follows:

January 8-14 – Asbury United Methodist Church

January 15-21 – St. Peter’s Episcopal Church

January 22-28 – Asbury United Methodist Church

January 29-February 4 – Allen Memorial Baptist Church

February 12-18 – St’ Peter’s Episcopal Church

February 26-March 4 – Allen Memorial Baptist Church

No host churches have been scheduled yet for the weeks not listed above through the end of March. To register or volunteer a host site, call Jorden at 410-548-3008. "


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