CAPS in need of volunteers

Published 7:58 pm Thursday, January 4, 2018

As temperatures dwindle and the snow accumulates, Suffolk’s homeless population has to find a place to stay warm.

The Coalition Against Poverty in Suffolk is hosting its Night Stay Program for the fifth year. The program takes in the homeless population into churches so that they won’t be spending their evening out on the streets during the winter.

“It started out as a coalition of churches because people were going from church to church,” said Cheryl Griffin, CAPS Night Stay coordinator. “It eliminates them going to church to church to get help. The director was talking to people and realized they needed to start a program to open doors. It started the first year with eight weeks. It started that way and has grown ever since.”

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Along with a warm shelter for the night, the guests get meals at the shelter. Some of the churches will do multiple meals throughout the season at various locations, according to Griffin.

The program got an earlier start this year than in years past, with the first night being Dec. 6. They currently have enough churches signed up for 17 weeks total that will go until April 4. Some of the churches have signed up for multiple weeks to keep the program going. CAPS hopes to be able to stretch the coverage from November to April in the coming years.

Despite the increasing need for help, CAPS is finding it difficult to maintain the steady number of volunteers that it needs to keep running. Participation hasn’t increased with the dropping temperatures or the snow, and even with churches opening their doors, the program cannot run without volunteers.

“The thing is we are trying to get churches, and it is really difficult. Without churches and without volunteers, it is really difficult. I think churches lose sight of what God would want us to do,” Griffin said. “We have trouble keeping people that will volunteer. It’s a lot of stereotyping. We have hard-working people that, because of some kind of crisis, they end up losing their home.”

CAPS uses Facebook and email to drum up volunteers, and this year, due to the weather, the city agreed to post it on their page to get more help.

“We try to advertise as much as we can and get the word out. We even put fliers around town,” Griffin said.

There are currently 15 churches that are signed up to help host the guests this winter season. Smaller churches, or churches without their own buildings, partner with other churches to provide shelter, meals and volunteers.

Transportation is provided by nine churches and other organizations that help the guests get to and from the designated shelters.

Call Griffin at 286-9126 for more information on the Night Stay program.