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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Snedden

The Story Behind Our Cold-Weather Shelter, pt 2

In a past newsletter we talked about what it takes for a volunteer organization with no office or physical facilities of its own to open an overnight shelter during the cold months of winter. A Home For Everyone In DeKalb relies on its community partners to help deliver on its mission to shelter unhoused individuals in DeKalb County. One partner who stepped up to the need to provide a safe and warm place during cold nights was Decatur First United Methodist Church (DFUMC).

Reverend Laura Rappold, Associate Pastor of Missions at DFUMC spoke about it this way, “When we were approached about using our gym for the warming shelter, we knew that it was something we would like to make happen, but that there were also a lot of factors to consider when making the decision.”

A need so simple as offering shelter can become a complicated effort when it overlaps with other commitments needing some of the same resources. “Decatur First has several groups (both community groups and groups inside the church) who use this space regularly,” says Rev, Rappold, “so we needed to speak with them about their willingness and ability to be flexible with the gym use on nights when it was under 35 degrees. We also needed the approval and support of our Engage Team, church council, church staff, and insurance company!”

While waiting for an answer, A Home moved forward with its work of gathering and organizing supplies, setting up a schedule to show to volunteers, and keeping its board members informed of the planning. DFUMC connected with the stakeholders at their church. “We were able to talk with each of these teams and all of them were in favor of housing our neighbors in need overnight, said Rev. Rappold.”

The help did not end with the commitment to make the gym available. “We needed to do a few facilities things, such as making sure the heat was working properly, the bathrooms were functioning well, and that there was adequate storage space for AHFEID's supplies,” said Rev. Rappold. “Our amazing facilities team took care of all of this and more. Additionally, our staff members have trained the volunteers in Safe Sanctuaries, which is a set of policies and procedures that reduces the risk of abuse in the Church. Several members of our staff met regularly with two of our lay volunteers, along with Shelly and Ellen from A Home, to make sure that we were thinking through all of the necessary details before opening up.”

A Home values its community partners, knowing that it takes collaboration to achieve its mission. The churches throughout Decatur are part of a support network that are in constant communication regarding needs and resources to help with the issue of homelessness in DeKalb. Rev. Rappold sums up her church’s commitment, “Our congregation has been very supportive of this ministry- they have donated hundreds of items for hygiene kits, signed up to bring meals, brought warm clothes, and volunteered to stay overnight. We could not host this shelter without their generous support.”

It truly takes a village to make A Home.

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