Overnight program needs churches

Published 8:37 pm Saturday, November 1, 2014

By Cheryl Griffin

I am a member of Suffolk Christian Church in downtown Suffolk. I am also the church representative for CAPS Night Stay Program in Suffolk.

For those of you who have not heard of this program, it was launched last year out of concern for the homeless people of Suffolk.

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I became involved in this program last year as my church coordinator for CNSP. I have to tell you, it turned out to be one of the most rewarding things I have ever participated in. I believe I got more out of it than our homeless guests did.

When our church was first asked to participate, there were many questions and much hesitancy. Where will we put them? How will we finance it? We don’t have showers here. Are they dangerous? How will we get them to our church?

I’ve heard more excuses from churches than you can imagine, including some legitimate concerns. A lot of it is fear of the unknown; a lot is stereotyping and judging. We are all guilty.

Finally, a handful of us approached the church at conference and convinced our congregation to give it a try. It was by far, one of the best decisions our church has ever made.

All you need to be a host church is one big room or two smaller rooms with bathrooms close by, along with a few caring people. The most overnight guests we had last year at one time was eight — not an overwhelming number.

Showers are not required. In fact, very few churches have showers. Everything is furnished — beds, bedding, toiletries, towels and washcloths (for sink washing) — so there is really no expense to the church. All that is asked of you is to house the guests from 6:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. and to provide them supper in the evening and breakfast the following morning before they leave your church.

Nothing elaborate is needed. In fact, we ask that you keep it simple. Keep in mind, these people are not used to eating like most of us, they eat very little and very bland, plain food.

We do not provide service to sex offenders or individuals with alcohol in their system. Our guests are looking for a warm, safe place to get a good night’s sleep and a hot meal. They are not looking for trouble.

They usually come in, eat supper and wash up, and go to bed. If you have a bus that can be used to transport them from our pickup point, that is great. If not, we will get them to you.

I ask you to please consider this as one of your church missions. If you do not feel you can host at this point, there are other ways to help. If you have a church bus, you could provide transportation from downtown to the host church. Perhaps a group from your church could provide meals.

Please do not hesitate to call me if you have questions.

“Defend the cause of the weak and the orphan; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3-4

Cheryl Griffin is the CNSP church representative at Suffolk Christian Church. Call her at 934-1724 for more information.