We are asked many questions about our men’s shelter and how it operates. Here are a few facts about the shelter that you may not know.
Q: Where do the men sleep?
A: Our shelter partner Bethesda Project provides 30 sturdy mats for our guests. Every person gets one mat for the duration of their stay in the church shelter. The mats are spread out on our Social Hall floor.
Q: Where do the residents put their stuff?
A: Each resident has one 23-gallon bin that holds all of their belongings, including bedding. Guests keep their clothes, toiletries, books, personal items, and blankets in their bin. These can be padlocked if the resident wants to do that for extra security.
Q: How do men get assigned to Old First?
A: In the summer, Bethesda starts conversations with the men they work with asking which shelter they are most interested in being assigned to. Old First has a reputation for being quieter/less disruptive and many people prefer our site to other church shelters.
Q: How do the men get to Old First every night?
A: Many of the residents meet at Our Brothers Place (OBP), the main campus for Bethesda. OBP offers a place to socialize, shower, get a hot meal, and then a van will transport the men to Old First. For those who have jobs or are busy, they can walk up to Old First on their own once the van has arrived.
Q: Who is watching the men while they are in the Social Hall?
A: Bethesda Project hires Supervisors who take attendance, provide medication, assist with necessary applications or paperwork, and maintain a safe and clean environment in the shelter overnight. The Supervisors become part of the community and work with the Old First staff to ensure the residents have the things that they need (toilet paper, dish washing liquid, clean space, etc.)
Q: What is the community like?
A: Bethesda and Old First have been partnering for three decades and have a commitment to making the residents feel like part of the church community and be their own community. This commitment includes the residents having their own community meetings to discuss concerns and work through their issues. Those assigned to our shelter have a voice in policies and procedures that are implemented for the safety of everyone in the Social Hall. Bethesda provides a small stipend to the community that they must come to an agreement on how to spend. This might be purchasing pizza once a month, buying special coffee creamer, or a movie. This is helping with building the residents up as partners in this shelter rather than having all choices and decisions removed from them. Note: If you want to volunteer to be the “Shopper” for when they want to spend their stipend, let me know!
Q: How sanitary is the shelter?
A: It is as sanitary as possible with all partners invested in keeping the space clean and free of any health risks. Old First’s housekeeping staff regularly sweep and mop the floor and check the kitchen for any concerning items. Old First staff also cleans out the kitchen on a regular basis and monitors the Social Hall. The residents sweep and spot mop every morning before they leave the shelter; this helps prepare the space for Alcoholics Anonymous that begins shortly after they exit. Once a month, Bethesda removes all of the linens from the shelter and cleans them at OBP. Bi-monthly volunteers will come in and work alongside the residents to clean out the storage bins and closets to remove any risk of germs.
Q: What are the hours of the men’s shelter?
A: The van arrives at approximately 6pm with the guests who were transported that way. The curfew for the men is midnight so that folks have a chance to complete work, enjoy social activities, etc. before turning in for the night. The men are up by 5am to start packing away their belongings and cleaning the space. Old First provides coffee and sugar for the shelter so the men can warm up before heading out on those cold days.