On a cold night, Hillsdale’s homeless population can head to 7 S. Manning St. for a warm bed and a hot meal, courtesy of Share the Warmth.
The warming center for Hillsdale’s homeless opens its doors 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. every night from Nov. 1 through March 31. The Share the Warmth program, which is in its second year of operation, is located in Sozo Church in Hillsdale.
The operation runs completely off of donations from the community and is now a nonprofit organization — which means it is able to offer tax exemptions for donations. Independent donors, church groups, and ministries volunteer to monitor the building overnight, to cook meals, and to fund expenses.
Executive Director Penny Meyer said anywhere from seven to 15 people stay at the center each night.
“I think they are very thankful for it, thankful that they don’t have to be out in the cold, and most of them are very respectful,” Meyer said.
Each night, the volunteers offer homeless people a warm meal, a cot, and a hot breakfast. Meyer added that the volunteers were able to add breakfast to their offerings this year since operations moved into a new facility with a fully-licensed kitchen. The volunteers are currently in the process of installing washers and dryers in addition to shower stalls.
Meyer, currently responsible for Share the Warmth’s daily operation, was nominated by the Sozo Church Council in 2017 to head a project for wintertime homeless sheltering.
“For some reason, they thought of me,” Meyer said. “They approached me, and I didn’t really think that we had a homeless problem in Hillsdale. I never even realized. Then I talked with my husband, and we prayed about it, and I accepted the challenge.”
Despite growing concerns over homelessness in Hillsdale, and Meyer herself discovering the problem for the first time, Meyer said that homelessness is not increasing in Hillsdale. Programs like Share the Warmth merely draws attention to a problem that already existed.
Jennifer Rose, a housing specialist through the Community Action Agency, works closely with Share the Warmth and other outreach programs for Hillsdale’s homeless. She agreed with Meyer.
“I don’t know that homelessness is increasing. It has always been here, but service is here now, so it is bringing homelessness more to the forefront,” Rose said. “Finding affordable housing for the homeless we already have is the big problem right now.”
To volunteer with Share the Warmth, contact Penny Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org