Lynda Keefer said it just wasn’t right.
In fact, the co-pastor of the Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church said she knew that if she and others didn’t step up to do something to help the area homeless they would not be demonstrating the love Jesus Christ had always displayed and one that he left as an example to all of his followers.
“We had some who were attending our church and whom we discovered would come to church on Saturday and then, at night, they’d sleep outside,” Keefer said.
“That just didn’t sit well with us because here we had this big beautiful building that sat empty at night. To see someone who has a need and to help to meet that need by showing the compassion that Jesus had for people was a desire that we all had.”
So, about three years ago, church officials decided to open up the gymnasium to accommodate as many as 18 people during the winter months.
The church eventually acquired the zoning approval needed to operate the shelter, which has enough room for 18 beds.
This year, the church will again open the doors to its gym for the homeless on Nov. 1 and individuals and families in need of a bed and a warm place to say will be able to use the premises from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
As an example of the need in the county, in January the annual winter Point-in-Time Count revealed that shelters like the Wesleyan Church are badly needed.
Count coordinator Leslie Perryman said at the time that there were 162 unsheltered homeless people in the county, the highest number since the nonprofits Crossroads Community Services and Street2Feet began counting in 2013.
An annual Point-In-Time Count is conducted by organized volunteers in different communities across the U.S. to determine the number of unsheltered homeless people at a given moment. Sheltered homeless sleep at the homes of people willing to take them in.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development uses these unsheltered homeless numbers to determine how much money to allocate to each community’s efforts to help its homeless population.
“We work together with Street2Feet, which came out of an initiative that started in the county,” Keefer said. “They are the center that provides many services to the homeless to help them find housing, jobs and other services. There are many places really working together on this, like the Salvation Army that provides meals, the Y where the homeless are offered a place to shower. It’s a collaborative effort.”
About 40 volunteers take turns in pitching in, including two or three church staffers, offering aid at the shelter. A social worker is also present to provide counseling.
Patrons have also been provided games and other activities to help occupy their time at the church, which also houses a preschool and a soup kitchen.
“Our thoughts have been that, if someone needs a place we have a place,” Keefer said. “We went through the zoning process to get approval to let people sleep in our gym during cold weather months. It’s an emergency shelter.”
The church will also serve meals to those in need on the first and third Friday of each month, and volunteers will give out groceries at that time as well, Keefer said.
“Our volunteers really work to get the job done,” she said. “We can always use more help, because it is such a big commitment every single night for five months through March.”
Read the original story here. Used with permission.