Cold weather shelter hosts information session for volunteers

The Out of the Cold shelter for homeless men at Grace Presbyterian Church is recruiting volunteers to meet the great need that will exist when the shelter opens in the New Year.

On Tuesday, December 20, there will be an information session at the uptown church for interested volunteers.

When it first opened last January, the shelter was supposed to operate for up to 10 of the coldest nights of the winter. It ended up being open for nearly 60 days because of poor weather conditions, creating a heavy workload for a dedicated but relatively small group of volunteers. This year, the committee is creating a bigger team.

“We found we couldn’t turn people away just because it wasn’t cold enough,” said Fern Bennett. “When the homeless have a face, you do what you can to make a difference. These people are someone’s sons, brothers, fathers. If everyone does a little, we can do a lot.”

Last year, Out of the Cold housed 30 men over the course of three months. Forty-five volunteers helped out in various ways, from cooking meals to doing evening and overnight shifts at the shelter.

“It was a very rewarding experience for volunteers,” said Mark Leger, Coordinator of the Greater Saint John Homelessness Steering Committee. “Yes, they helped people who needed shelter from the cold. But the volunteers also got to know the men as well. They formed a bond that was good for the volunteer and the guys who came mainly for a warm meal and a safe, warm place to sleep.”

The orientation and information session will take place at 7 pm at the Grace Presbyterian Church, 101 Coburg St. (use the entrance on the Hazen Street side of the church). If you would like more information, or can’t make the session but want to get involved, please contact:

Fern Bennett, Volunteer Coordinator, Out of the Cold. Phone: 645-9208. E-mail: sj.makepovertyhistory@yahoo.ca

Mark Leger, Greater Saint John Homelessness Steering Committee. Phone: 636-8541. E-mail: mark@sjhdc.ca

Photo caption: The volunteer team on the first night the shelter opened in January, 2011.

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