Need For Shelters Heightened With Arrival Of Cold, Snow
Marie Vos and her husband spent many hours last winter volunteering at an emergency shelter at Joy Fellowship Methodist Church in Jamestown. Twice a week for most weeks the East Seventh Street church was open during “Code Blue” situations, the couple worked the 5 to 9 a.m. shift to help the local homeless population.
“Joy Fellowship is a tiny, poor church with a big heart that agreed to open its doors to those who have nowhere else to spend a winter night,” Vos told members of the Jamestown City Council this week. “We got to know the guests; we offered them coffee, food and clothing.”
Vos’ remarks followed news this month that both of the city’s emergency overnight shelters were not opening this winter on Code Blue nights when the temperature drops below 32 degrees. In addition to Joy Fellowship, the Mental Health Association operated an emergency homeless shelter at the Gateway Center.
Both locations last year received Community Development Block Grant funds from the city totaling $194,400 to operate the shelters.
LIMITED OVERNIGHT OPTIONS
According to the Chautauqua County Department of Social Services, there are four warming centers located in the city of Jamestown that open when temperatures or the wind chill reach 32 degrees – Chautauqua Opportunities at 402 Chandler St.; the Department of Mental Hygiene and Social Services, 110 E. Fourth St.; the James Prendergast Library at 509 Cherry St.; and the UCAN City Mission at 7 W. First St. The locations, however, only provide temporary shelter from the cold during daytime hours and are not open overnight. Further, UCAN is only available for men.
Countywide, warming centers also are located in Brocton, Sherman, Ashville, Dunkirk, Mayville, Ellington, Lakewood, Busti, Frewsburg and Sinclairville.
For those currently in need of emergency shelter, the county Department of Social Services works on a “case-by-case basis” to secure shelter, many cases in a hotel room,” a county spokesman said Wednesday. One of the hotels used locally is the Budget Inn in Falconer.
Individuals in need of emergency shelter after normal business hours are asked to contact the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office at 716-483-7536 or nearest police department. Brooks Memorial Hospital and UPMC Chautauqua also are able to assist with Code Blue placement, the county said.
‘I WISH THERE WAS A SIMPLE ANSWER’
In her remarks to city officials this week, Vos said she was one of a dozen volunteers from her church who helped staff Joy Fellowship’s shelter “so that it could be opened seven nights a week.”
She inquired with the City Council where the homeless can go as snow arrived this week. “Where can a Code Blue shelter be established to give safe shelter to the homeless in our community?” she asked.
Mayor Eddie Sundquist said the city will “work diligently with our partners across the county” to secure funding for long-term and short-term solutions in Jamestown.
“Homelessness is sadly a growing problem across the country and our community is unfortunately not immune to that,” he told The Post-Journal. “I wish there was a simple answer on how to best solve the issue, but the reality is that this issue is taking place across the country and the other mayors I speak with don’t have a good answer either.
“While we continue working towards a long-term solution to this problem, we will continue to best support these individuals and local shelters with the resources that we have available.”
Josiah Lamp, director of housing and community development at Chautauqua Opportunities, told members of the county’s Homeless Coalition there are 1,169 people in imminent danger of becoming homeless while 769 are currently homeless.
This month’s coalition meeting included remarks from Dodi McIntyre, Joy Fellowship’s lead pastor, who said the church had to rely on paid staff for its overnight shelter. She alluded to volunteer burnout in addition to a need for more training and supplies.
Nonetheless, McIntyre said Joy Fellowship will continue to help the area’s homeless despite not operating an overnight shelter.
“The faith-based community came together last year, and we’re not walking away this year,” she said. “We’re still going to offer services and food. Any agency is invited to come to our church and provide services right where the need is.”
Indeed, Joy Fellowship announced it will operate a daytime shelter beginning Monday, Dec. 11. To start, the shelter will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and offer many of the services it already provides at its Joy-Full Cup Cafe, such as food, internet and telephone access as well as life skills classes.
On Tuesday, church members met to discuss the Homeless Coalition meeting and the news that its funding for the overnight shelter was not received.
McIntyre told The Post-Journal the church was devastated to learn there would be no emergency shelters this winter in Jamestown. Her concerns were heightened because the area was under a winter storm warning to begin the week and the fact that hundreds of people sought emergency shelter a year ago.
She said Joy Fellowship alone assisted 68 individuals at its overnight shelter last winter, and their presence impacted both church members and its volunteers. “It changed our lives to hear their stories,” she said.
Now, McIntyre fears someone might die while out in the elements. Vos noted the same in comments she made to city officials.
“It is imperative to have a place for folks to spend the night safe from the frigid temperatures,” Vos said. “What are the plans to address this need? You cannot wait until some poor soul freezes to death from sleeping outside before you act, and winter is already at our door.”
Joy Fellowship Methodist Church, 515 E. Seventh St., can be reached at 716-484-1542 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The church is accepting donations, including monetary, food and supplies, for its daytime shelter. Those items can be dropped off while the shelter is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, or by calling and arranging a time.
The church hopes to stock up on supplies such as blankets, hats and socks, as well as gift cards to purchase food to prepare meals.
The following is a list of all warming centers in the county:
• Ahira Hall Memorial Library, 37 W. Main St., Brocton
• Alexander Free Library, 2883 North Road, Sherman
• Ashville Free Library, 2200 N. Maple Ave., Ashville
• Chautauqua Opportunities Inc., 10825 Bennett Road, Dunkirk
• Chautauqua Opportunities Inc., 402 Chandler St., Jamestown
• Department of Mental Hygiene and Social Services, 319 Central Ave., Dunkirk
• Department of Mental Hygiene and Social Services, 110 E. Fourth St., Jamestown
• Department of Mental Hygiene and Social Services, 7 N. Erie St., Jamestown
• Ellington-Farman Free Library, 760 Thornton Road, Ellington
• Hazeltine Public Library, 891 Busti Sugar Grove Road, Busti
• James Prendergast Library, 509 Cherry St., Jamestown
• Lakewood Memorial Library, 12 W. Summit St., Lakewood
• Myers Memorial Library, 6 Falconer St., Frewsburg
• Sinclairville Free Library, 15 Main St., Sinclairville
• UCAN City Mission, 7 W. First St., Jamestown