Night Stay program begins

Published 10:18 pm Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Coalition Against Poverty in Suffolk starts its fourth annual Night Stay Program this week to provide a place for homeless people to sleep during the coldest months of the year.

The need is great this year, but the organization is having trouble getting churches to participate, said Cheryl Griffin, Night Stay coordinator.

“It’s been really cold,” she said. “We’re getting slammed this year with homeless calls.”

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Griffin said the organization has heard from a large number of homeless people seeking assistance all year long, but the number of calls has increased now that the temperature is dropping.

She said many people are working but are unable to pay rent and utilities with low wages.

“You can’t do it all with that kind of money, and unfortunately a lot of people end up on the street because of it,” she said.

The Night Stay program rotates to different host churches each week and provides dinner and breakfast as well as a safe, warm place to sleep.

CAPS provides cots, linens, portable showers and other needs. The church is expected to provide a sleeping room, at least three volunteers per shift, meals and transportation.

However, churches that do not have the ability to transport can still host, Griffin said, as some churches are able to provide transportation but not to host. In addition, meals can also be handled by a different church — one church already does so every Tuesday night.

Griffin said three weeks are not covered this winter — the week of Christmas and the last two weeks of the program in March.

There are currently 13 host churches and other partners, she said.

“In a city with over 200 churches, that’s not good,” Griffin said. “The community needs to get involved.”

Last year, 65 people used the program on at least one night, Griffin said. The most on one night was 25. The average is around 10 to 15.

“I get a feeling this year is going to be different,” Griffin said.

Griffin said a common objection to participating in the program is a disbelief that homelessness is a big problem in Suffolk.

“They’ve seen them; they just don’t know they’re seeing them,” Griffin said. “We’re getting lots of calls from mothers with small children who are sleeping in their cars. They’re afraid their children are going to get taken away.”

Griffin said hosts don’t necessarily have to be churches; organizations with clubhouses also would make good hosts.

Intake occurs place nightly from 6 to 6:30 p.m. at the bus station across from the Suffolk Seaboard Station Railroad Museum, 326 N. Main St. Transportation is then provided to the host church. Homeless with cars must meet at the intake location and can then follow the bus. Alcohol, drugs and weapons are not permitted. Guests must have identification, which will be checked against the sex offender registry.

For more information on the program, call 286-9126 or visit