One of the ways that people of faith respond to God’s love for every person is through caring for our neighbors.
Ten congregations in our community have chosen to care for our homeless neighbors by participating in the “Out of the Cold: Centre County” program. The mission of the program is to “provide the homeless in our community with a warm and safe overnight accommodation and nourishment within a welcoming atmosphere, as a supplemental option to locally established shelters.”
The “Out of the Cold: Centre County” program just finished its third season and is already preparing for its fourth. Season four will run from Oct. 6 through May 3. But the program’s executive committee is looking for additional congregations to participate as host sites. More host sites mean the program will be able to extend its season to serve our homeless neighbors. We are also looking for a congregation or two in the Bellefonte area interested in organizing a satellite program in that community.
How the program works
“Out of the Cold: Centre County” guests must be at least 18 years old. Overnight volunteers must be at least 21 years old. There are a minimum of two or three overnight volunteers sleeping at the host site each night. We provide bus tokens or taxi rides to the host sites not located downtown. During season three, we provided a hotel room for all the guests on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day and for one night during the big snow storm.
Each day “Out of the Cold: Centre County” is open, guests first contact the Community Help Center for an intake interview; if the guest is homeless and all the shelters are full, the guest is recommended to our program. Each evening, the host coordinator from the host congregation calls Community Help Center to receive the guest list for the night. Guests are welcomed into the host site between 9 and 10 p.m. The host coordinator and overnight volunteers welcome the guests, provide them with a snack or hot meal, and then direct them to one of the cots in the assigned sleeping area. Each morning, the guests wake up at 6:15 a.m, have breakfast and then leave the building by 7 a.m.
Program organizers work closely with many community social organizations, including the Food Bank of the State College Area, and an executive committee oversees the program, with one representative from each participating host congregation and representatives from the Community Help Centre, Housing Transitions, Interfaith Human Services, the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, Hearts for the Homeless and the Centre County Youth Services Bureau working together.
The “Out of the Cold: Centre County” executive committee is looking for additional congregations to participate as host sites. This will allow us to be open longer to serve our homeless neighbors. If you are interested in more details about this program, please contact Pastor Monica Ouellette at St. John’s United Church of Christ in Boalsburg by calling 466-7162 or emailing ordain email@example.com.
Monica Ouellette is pastor at St. John’s United Church of Christ in Boalsburg.