The kitchen at Sozo Church, where vol­un­teers from Share the Warmth prepare meals for homeless members of the com­munity. Courtesy | Penny Meyer

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: