Plans for Winter Overnight Shelter

For many years, Interfaith Action of Evanston has provided a simple, life-saving cold weather emergency overnight shelter at St. Paul’s Lutheran for up to 35 men and women who find themselves out in the bitter cold on any given winter night. Originally operated as a partnership between the City of Evanston’s Emergency Services and the organization Connections for the Homeless, the shelter is now run solely by Interfaith Action with a grant from the city.

Originally, the shelter only opened when temperatures fell to or below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Realizing it would mean a significant increase in the number of nights we were open, we decided a few years ago to open at five degrees or below. We opened the shelter almost 30 nights in the 2014-2015 winter. Even though it was taxing on our volunteers and St. Paul’s, many blessings overflowed. We learned a lot: we began using grant funding for one paid overnight staff person and laundry services, and we expanded our volunteer base.

But we continued to hear from people of faith: What? Evanston doesn’t have an emergency shelter? What? Don’t you realize people can freeze at 32º? We can/must do better. What else can we do?

Opening more nights, expanding to more centers

Together, the Evanston Interfaith Clergy and Leaders group, Connections for the Homeless, and Interfaith Action of Evanston collaboratively worked to move us a bit closer to our vision of a permanent emergency shelter in Evanston. Our first step was to invite more faith communities to open their doors for the winter shelter. We are so thankful to announce that, for the 2016-2017 winter, six faith communities: St. Paul’s, Beth Emet, Unitarian Church of Evanston, First Methodist, First Congregational, and First Presbyterian will collaborate in providing emergency shelters when the temperature drops to 15 degrees or below.

We will move our supplies from site to site. Our budget and volunteer needs will increase substantially because we now have six sites and we anticipate being open for up to 65 nights. We are seeking skilled staff for the paid overnight positions and volunteers who are willing to be trained. We are submitting grant and donation requests and are matching partner faith communities with each host site.  We are eager to involve both IAE members and others from our compassionate community. We will continue to require training for all volunteers and we hope to use multiple communication platforms. We invite your continued prayers and support.

Our leadership team includes Sue Murphy, Rev. Betty Landis, Betty Phillips, Anne Heinz, Rev. Bret Lortie, Rev. Michael Kirby, Rev. Keith Fry, Rabbi Andrea London, Becky Kaplan, Rev. Ann Rosewall, Joseph Roberts, Rev. Dean Francis, Rev. Jane Cheema, Caryl Weinberg, Rev. Raymond Hylton, and Lisa Todd.

Many thanks to our faithful volunteers through the years and for all who may be interested in helping now and in the future. If you wish to share this information or you wish someone from the IAE to come share the many ways your faith community can serve this expanded, life-saving shelter, please contact Sue Murphy ia@interfaithactionofevanson. org, or Rev. Michael Kirby, at this fall.