'Nights of Hospitality' gives homeless warmth in the cold
One might think that a mild winter such as Wareham had seen earlier this year might lead to less visitors at Nights of Hospitality, which offers food and sanctuary for the homeless at local churches.
In fact, says Emmanuel Church of the Nazarene Pastor David Shaw, that’s not true at all.
Shaw says the shelters usually average anywhere between three and 12 people per night, no matter what the weather.
The times where he does see the head count drop usually coincide with holidays or sporting events – Christmas and the Super Bowl.
“Those are usually nights when a friend is willing to let them crash on the couch for a night,” said Shaw.
On a recent Sunday night, a relatively cool one by this winter’s standards, his words ring true. Two children gathered around the television, watching a copy of “Finding Nemo” on VHS.
Behind them, their parents were seated at a round table, eating soup and macaroni and cheese, and sipping fruit punch. Two other visitors sat nearby, chatting as they cleared their plates.
A larger group who arrived earlier filed out quickly, after an invitation to watch the Super Bowl on a friend’s couch.
“You never know what to expect,” said Associate Pastor Lynn Shaw as she checked food levels at the small buffet table.
The two children are somewhat of a rarity, as the majority of visitors are single people, ranging in age from their mid-20s to a 76-year-old gentleman whom Shaw worked with last year.
Nevertheless, David is happy to lend a helping hand. “There are a lot of different reasons that people might become homeless, either temporarily or more permanently,” he explained. “I’ve seen people in due to losing their housing in a divorce, I’ve seen veterans, people with physical health issues, mental health issues, substance abuse…there are a lot of ways to end up needing a little help, and not all of them are what people would expect.”
The project’s biggest mission is to make sure that people don’t freeze to death. It is a joint program, run by five churches at any one time.
Three churches - St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, Emmanuel Assembly of God, and Emmanuel Church of the Nazarene - offer physical shelter on a rotating weekly basis, between Dec. 26 and the middle of March.
The doors open at 7 p.m. and close at 7 a.m. Every visitor is provided with dinner, breakfast, and a warm place to sleep.
The organizers also work with the Gleason Family YMCA, which offers free showers to the homeless on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings.
Staff from the Greater New Bedford Healthcare Center also drop in at least once a week to perform cursory health checks.
“We want to tend to people’s needs as much as we can,” Shaw said.
Future Nights of Hospitality dates are as follows: Feb. 12-18: St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, 84 High Street; Feb. 19-25: Emmanuel Church of the Nazarene; Feb. 26-March 4: Emmanuel Assembly of God, 15 Highland Ave, Onset; March 5-11: St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church; March 12-18: Emmanuel Church of the Nazarene.