GLASGOW – A new plan to provide overnight shelter and a couple of meals for homeless individuals has started off with low demand, but one of the primary coordinators said that may be due, at least in part, to misconceptions about the program.
And locations are still needed for two nights a week.
It started Monday, and only person participated and for only one night out of the first four it was offered, said Matt Boston, administrator for Bridge Kentucky, a Glasgow-based nonprofit organization that offers a variety of community services. He has been serving as a primary coordinator in this joint effort with Room in the Inn in Bowling Green and others.
He said four or five others had reached out for information and indicated they were coming.
“People in that situation, everything’s just minute to minute. … Things pop up,” Boston said, so it’s hard for them to commit with certainty.
Last week, a schedule for participating locations had been set up that covered Sunday through Thursday each week, with a different church organization covering the volunteer aspects each of the five nights at four locations. Two churches were using the same building for Mondays and Tuesdays.
No one had claimed Friday and Saturday nights, though.
As snow that started late Thursday was falling Friday afternoon and temperatures were expected to drop to a few degrees below freezing, Boston was also telling the Glasgow Daily Times via phone that locations for those two nights still hadn’t been offered.
“But if anyone needs a spot, they can feel free to reach out to use and we can do our best to try to get them in a hotel for the night,” he said. “If somebody’s in need, we will try to take care of them.”
He added that would be through Bridge, not the Room in the Inn program in Glasgow that is being modeled after Bowling Green’s.
He said they are still looking for more churches or other organizations to get involved, and depending on what may be holding them back, “we would do everything we can to help make that happen.”
Although all those providing space right now are churches, “it’s not necessarily a faith-led thing.” Many churches just happen to be set up in such a way that allows them to do it, Boston said, but any organization with bathrooms and space for cots where people can spend the night is welcome to participate. The location must have electricity and water, but showers are not necessary.
Bridge Kentucky can help provide the cots and will transport the individuals to and from the overnight location to stay from about 6 p.m to 6 a.m. It’s up to volunteers to provide dinner – even if it’s pizza or carryout – and breakfast, and a sack lunch for the guests to take with them when they leave.
Boston said that while the numbers are low, it is recommended that volunteers don’t put a lot of time or effort into preparing meals in advance.
Other ways individuals can help, for example, would be to volunteer to take food to someone if they end up for a hotel for the night, Boston said.
‘We’re always looking for more people to get involved,” he said. “The more we have available to give whatever they can, it’s going to help out in a big way.”
Giving can mean time or things like food.
As for participation from guests, the hosts had been told they may not have any or may have very few at first and were asked to not let that discourage them.
Boston said, “The biggest thing we could use is just more spreading the word and to get it out there.”
It’s important for people to understand what is offered – a warm place to stay for the night and some food.
“It’s not a homeless shelter or a rehabilitation center,” he said. “All we ask is ‘Respect the church’s rules,’ and it’s as simple as that.”
He said there will be no pressure for guests to enroll in some other type of program or find a job or anything like that, but that is a misperception he’s heard that some have. If someone needs and requests those types of help, though, Bridge Kentucky will do whatever it can to help or connect them with someone who can.
Likewise, church leaders have been cautioned that volunteers should not approach guests about religion. If the guests have questions or ask to talk about it or pray, that’s OK, but volunteers should not be the ones to initiate those discussions.
Those seeking overnight shelter may arrive at the “welcome center” as early as 4:30 p.m., and registration will take place between 5 and 5:30 p.m. Those who are not registered by that time will not be able to use the program that night. That spot is the lobby of the Housing Authority of Glasgow, 111 Bunche Ave., weekday evenings. On weekends, it’s at the Bridge Kentucky in the Commonwealth Plaza building, 113 W. Public Square. The entrance is along the south side (left as you’re looking at it from the front), just beyond the former drive-through breezeway.
The plan is for the program to continue through March 15, and for the next winter season it would start Nov. 15.