By Rev. Lynne Smouse López
After hearing the news of deaths on the street last winter, members of Ainsworth United Church of Christ voted to open our Extreme Cold Weather Shelter to serve people who are guests of the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon HIV Day Center here.
We got off to a slow start, but have spent most of 2019 preparing to open the shelter when the temperature is below 25 degrees or there is ice and snow. We can provide sleeping spaces for up to 15 people who are HIV+, keeping them inside for a hot dinner, snacks and much needed rest.
During the day, guests can attend the day center and, on Sundays, attend worship or go elsewhere. We are working with the day center and a representative from Cascade AIDS Project to receive referrals for those in need who qualify.
We have received generous donations from the Walmart Foundation that enabled us to purchase cots and all the equipment needed for comfortable sleeping arrangements. Donations from others will also provide for food and beverages.
Staffing will be done by volunteers who have gone through training. That includes: basic HIV information, de-escalation and shelter orientation.
The Extreme Cold Weather Shelter Committee is hoping to receive a grant that will enable us to hire a person in charge to coordinate volunteers.
Until then, the shelter will be staffed entirely with volunteers from the congregation and community. More are needed. We need two to three hosts at all times.
The first shift begins at 3 p.m. to greet guests, set up sleeping equipment, prepare and serve dinner. The second shift begins at 8 p.m. and will stay until 5:30 a.m. The third shift begins at 5:30 a.m. and will help the guests get up, serve s n ac k s a nd beverages, take down cots and clean up.
There are additional volunteer opportunities to serve:
- Kitchen food preparation: Prepare a warm evening meal and clean up.
- Janitor: Clean up all spaces used by shelter visitors when they leave.
- Shelter clean up: Clean all the pads and wash all the covers after each use.
Volunteers will be contacted and asked to serve on shifts as soon as we receive news that the weather requires opening.
We will arrange training for anyone seeking to volunteer and ask each to complete a background check that we will pay for. If you are interested in volunteering in any capacity, please contact me at 503.284.8767.
The Rev. Lynne Smouse López has served since 1996 as the pastor of Ainsworth United Church of Christ, a multiracial, multicultural, open and affirming, immigrant welcoming, justice-seeking congregation.
CNA respects the views and beliefs of all cultures and faiths. The views expressed by this writer do not necessarily reflect the views of CNA