As the weather turns colder and less forgiving, those who have the luxury of a warm, dry place to sleep grow more appreciative. Those who have not, however, must seek shelter wherever they can, and often rely upon the kindness of strangers for a safe night’s sleep.
Beginning in November and running through March, homes belonging to churches of many faiths participate in a program called Safe Nights. Churches are transformed into shelters that provide a safe, warm place for homeless persons to sleep. Each person is afforded a cot, and is able to stay in the church shelter from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Safe Nights began in 2008 with the participation of 7 churches, and has since grown to include 22 churches that are hosting Safe Nights, and the assistance of an additional 15 to 16 churches. The churches each host for a week as they take turns providing guests with a place to say and food to eat. Guests receive a nutritious breakfast and dinner at the shelter, and a bagged lunch to take with them during the day. “We do a hot evening meal, and breakfast is up to each church for whether it will be a hot or cold breakfast,” says Mary Anne Zaversnik, president of Safe Nights of Calvert County.
Safe Nights depends on the kind donations of the community to stay operational. Member of the community do not have to be a part of any of the interfaith churches that are a part of Safe Night to donate items or money to help the homeless. Items needed include towels, wash clothes and personal-sized toiletries, twin or full-sized sheets and blankets and duffel bags. The organization has plenty of soap, but is in need of other travel-size toiletries: “What we need is shaving cream, razors and deodorant,” says Zaversnik.
The organizations is also especially in need of medium size duffel bags. “Guests are limited to the amount of luggage they can bring, and we don’t allow plastic bags, so for those who can’t afford it, we give away duffel bags,” says Zaversnik. Monetary donations are especially helpful as they allow the organization to purchase food. Monetary donations are also tax deductible for the donor.
This Thanksgiving, St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Prince Frederick will be hosting the weeklong shelter for the third year in a row. While thousands of community members are celebrating Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family, Safe Nights will be ensuring that many homeless community members of Calvert County will also have something to eat. “The guests will be invited to the Orphan’s Thanksgiving Dinner and will stay all day (as they are welcome to) on all holidays,” says Zaversnik.
Homelessness can affect anyone, especially in this age of economic uncertainty. To learn more about Safe Nights or to find out about donating, click here