Nights of Hospitality homeless program cancelled for this year
After 12 years of offering shelter for the homeless through the coldest months of the year, the Nights of Hospitality program run by the Wareham Area Clergy Association will come to an end.
Historically, churches would open their doors and provide a warm place to sleep along with dinner and breakfast.
Pastor Dave Ferrari of the Bridge Church in Onset said that the clergy made the decision out of necessity, as there is no way for them to safely run the program this year.
“The overwhelming reason is covid,” Ferrari explained. “There is literally no way that we can have the churches and volunteers and keep everybody safe in the current environment.”
When the program began, it usually served about five to ten people. Over the years, it has grown, sometimes seeing up to 25 people per night.
There is not enough physical space in the churches to accommodate that many people while observing social distancing.
“The story is that as the years went, the more it grew, the more issues there were,” Ferrari said. He noted that the church staff and volunteers are untrained, and are not equipped to deal with the various needs of the homeless population, including alcohol and opioid addiction and mental health issues.
“We need to be able to grow. We’re all in, wanting to meet the need, but Wareham churches don't have the buildings and the means to do it anymore with how it’s grown,” Ferrari said. “It’s to the point where we need to take it to the next level.”
Ferrari said that the clergy are working with the town to create a more permanent, safe, and sustainable program — but that won’t be in place until at least next year.
For now, churches will continue their other forms of outreach, including collecting and distributing sleeping bags, serving hot meals. The Gleason Family YMCA will continue to offer hot showers to those in need.
“The churches are committed to solving this problem. We’re not just abandoning the problem,” Ferrari said. “We’re hoping that the faith community as well as the town can do something sustainably moving forward.”
Chuck McCullough, the vice-chair of Turning Point, said that he is looking into whether other area shelters in Plymouth and Brockton will be expanding this winter, but said that there will likely be more people spending the winter outside.
“The face that our shelter is closed, that’s 25 fewer beds for people, and I think we have to assume that they’ll be in the woods, so we have to provide them with what they need,” McCullough said. He added that Turning Point and other organizations will likely be looking to distribute “arctic” sleeping bags approved for use in frigid temperatures.
McCullough is also looking to distribute supplies from past years, including mattresses and blankets, to where the goods are most needed.
“The numbers over the past two years have grown significantly when compared to the first ten years that we did the program,” McCullough said. “Whether it’s more folks that are homeless or more folks that had found us that were homeless in other areas, not that it matters [where they came from]. We were seeing an increase in people from the mid-Cape, people from the South Shore.”
Those in need of help are encouraged to reach out to Turning Point at the Church of the Nazarene at 6 Rogers Ave. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon. Call 508-291-0535 to make an appointment.