Samaritan Group, Inc. will conclude its annual Emergency Winter Shelter program on April 1st.
The end of the shelter program will drastically affect the homeless community in Kent County, as the program provides the only nighttime housing program in the area. For many people, the program is the only way to avoid spending the night on the streets.
Samaritan Group, Inc. volunteer Julie Donovan expresses great concern regarding the near future for those who seek refuge through the Emergency Winter Shelter program. She explains, “Come April 1st, these people will be on back on the cold streets at night.”
Every year, the group holds its Emergency Winter Shelter program from the first week of January until the last week of March, providing nighttime shelter to the homeless citizens of Kent County, ensuring that they have a safe place to sleep and do not have to spend their nights enduring the unforgiving winter weather.
Due to minimal funds and few resources, the program can only operate for three months, leaving the guests who use the program without guaranteed housing. “The Emergency Winter Shelter program can only operate for three months of the year,” Julie Donovan states. “There is just not enough funding to keep the program going past March.”
When the program ends, the guests who have been utilizing it will be left to try and find other forms of shelter. “Once the program ends, some guests are secure housing by staying with family members or friends,” states the shelter coordinator. “However, other guests do not have those resources, and must seek other options.” Several guests usually partner together to try and secure temporary or permanent housing.
Three separate churches in Chestertown – First United Methodist, Chestertown Presbyterian Church, and Chestertown Church of the Nazarene – allow Samaritan Group, Inc. to use their facilities to house the homeless each night. From 5:30 PM to 8:00 AM the following day, the guests of the program are given freshly cooked meals donated by various volunteers and members of the community. At nighttime, the guests are given a cot, blankets, and pillows in order to sleep comfortably and stay warm.
On an average night, there are about ten guests spending the night. “It’s mostly the same group of people spending the night,” Julie Donovan says. “Many of them also utilized our services last year.” The guests of the program come from all walks of life, and their ages range drastically. Many of the guests use the program because they are unable to obtain government assistance, or are in the process of applying for it.
The Emergency Winter Shelter program heavily relies on volunteers to stay functional. These volunteers are responsible for the daily activities involved in operating the program, such as physically setting up the cots or cooking the meals for the guests. “The volunteers who help with the Emergency Winter Shelter program are some of the most wonderful people I have ever met,” says the shelter coordinator. “They make this whole experience a much easier process.”
There are also a few paid staffers at Samaritan Group, Inc. who serve as the coordinators of the various programs. These coordinators make sure the resources are obtained at the proper time and also help the guests with life outside the shelter program. The shelter coordinator is available to help the guests manage their financial and future housing situations so they are prepared when the winter program finally concludes.
When a guest enters the Emergency Winter Shelter program, they are screened to ensure that the other guests are safe. The safety screening also helps the guests apply for other services and assistance.
Information about the Emergency Winter Shelter program can be found at http://www.samaritangroupkent.org/winter-shelter.html.
To see other services provided by Samaritan Group, Inc. does, visit http://www.samaritangroupkent.org/outreach-services.html.