St. Clement's Shelter

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And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has no where to lay his head.” -Matthew 8:20

St. Clement's Hypothermia Shelter

The St. Clement's shelter provides emergency temporary shelter to homeless men in Alexandria throughout the winter months.

Volunteer to Spend a Night:

sleeping-by-the-altar.jpgChrist Church is responsible for shelter supervision on Wednesday nights from January through mid-March. Shifts run from 7:30 p.m. - 6:15 a.m. This is not an ongoing commitment. Most volunteers only sign up for one shift a winter. Shelter volunteers provide overnight staffing of the emergency shelter run from a neighborhood church. Guests are screened before coming to the shelter. The volunteer greets and helps settle the guests; monitors the shelter throughout the night; checks guests out; and closes the shelter. While shelter regulations require that someone be awake at all times, two people are assigned to each shift, allowing some time for sleep. Volunteers need compassion, flexibility, ability to tactfully enforce rules and regulations, and good communication skills with diverse populations.

Volunteering at the shelter gives the satisfaction of meeting an immediate, concrete need of a brother in Christ. It also gives an opportunity to spend time with people you might otherwise not meet and to learn their stories.

A Story from a First Time Volunteer

I volunteered for one shift this winter and it was my first experience spending the night at St. Clement’s. I arrived at 7:30 p.m. and was met by a member of their congregation. We did a quick tour of the facility and went over the rules and regulations for the hypothermia shelter guests; smoking locations, lights out, etc. I think the St. Clement’s congregation is incredibly welcoming to unsheltered individuals who come to spend the evening.

The church provides snacks, hot water for instant coffee or hot chocolate and small cups of fruit. There are chairs and a TV, with local stations, located in a hallway. Their bedding - sheets, pillow cases, blankets, and mats for the floor - were out and available in the narthex of the church. When the second volunteer arrived, a call was made to Carpenter’s. The van containing our guests for the evening was on its way.

It had been a snowy, cold, and rainy March day. The guests arrived about 8:00 p.m. All were very familiar with the nightly routine of signing in, selecting the necessary bedding, and then securing a spot in the sanctuary to settle in for the night. We had a full house, 12 men; 6 slept on either side of the altar, the rest spread out among the pews. St. Clement’s Church is solid stone with little insulation. Some individuals went right to sleep, others stepped out for a smoke, and a few settled in to watch TV. Before bedtime all of the snacks were consumed or at least removed from the beverage cart. At 10:00 p.m. lights out was announced, the last smoke was taken, and everyone moved into the sanctuary to settle in for the night. Within 15 minutes a low rumble of snoring echoed in the sanctuary, tired men enjoying a warm night, sleeping safe. I took the first watch. My partner settled down for a nap and I was able to read in the narthex. A walk-through is required several times during the night. When my shift was up, I woke up my partner and I was able to then sleep till morning.

Wake-up calls came at 5:30 a.m. Everyone cleaned up their areas in the sanctuary, washed up in the restrooms, packed up their personal belongings, and also packed up the dirty sheets to be taken back to Carpenter’s Shelter to be washed. As each guest signed out they received a $5.00 gift card for breakfast at McDonald’s. The van arrived from Carpenter’s Shelter at 5:50 a.m. to transport the guests back to Old Town. The volunteers cleaned up as we headed outside to a beautiful sunrise. I was tired on Thursday but very satisfied to have experienced the Hypothermia Shelter. I cannot help but wonder where these men sleep as the weather turns warm and the Hypothermia Shelter closes for the season.

Who Can I Call to Find Out More or to Get Involved?

Click here to send Steve Reed an email.

 

 

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