What is the Interfaith Winter Shelter?
The Interfaith Winter Shelter (IWS) began in the late spring of 2009 when clergy and lay leaders from many faith communities came together to consider ways to respond to concerns for the health, safety, and well-being of men and women who are homeless in the Bloomington area. The project quickly snowballed and today involves more than twenty faith communities, more than 450 volunteers, and a number of public, private, and governmental entities working together to provide emergency winter shelter to Monroe County’s homeless individuals.
IWS models its program after PADS, a similar program in Chicago that has been in operation for over twenty years. In this multi-site model, several different faith communities host the shelter for one or two nights per week on a rotating basis, using volunteers, financial resources, and in-kind donations from each hosting site and the community at large.
The IWS operates as a low-barrier shelter during the winter months. It was designed to offer a safe, warm place to sleep for men and women who – for whatever reason – have no other alternative but the streets.
How are we involved?
First United Church was one of the founding organizations of the Interfaith Winter Shelter, and we continue our active involvement today. Since 2010, we have opened our building two or three nights a week to guests experiencing homelessness. In 2012-2013, we are hosting guests on Monday and Tuesday nights.
How can I help?
The IWS needs volunteers from October through April, and a training session is required. We need upwards of twenty volunteers each evening we’re open. There are shifts and tasks that allow for limited contact with our guests, and there are shifts and tasks that require considerable contact with the guests. Please watch the church announcements and the IWS website for information about upcoming training events.
Information for 2012-2013 Volunteers
New and returning volunteers should attend a training session. If you are unable to make a session, talk to our volunteer coordinator, Sara Frommer about individualized options for training. These short sessions will prepare new shelter volunteers to work three hour shifts between 7:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. from mid-October through mid-April, the shelter’s schedule this year. They also will update experienced volunteers to changes since previous years.
Once trained, volunteers can sign the 2012 volunteer covenant, and get started signing up for shifts at any of the church sites. Sign up is done via Volunteer Spot, an online sign up service. If you’ve lost the link to the Volunteer Spot, contact Sara Frommer. Volunteers must be 18 to work when homeless shelter guests are present, but the setup shift can bring children, who don’t need to sign up, even though they can make a real contribution. If you have questions about volunteering, please contact our volunteer coordinator, Sara Frommer.
Another way to volunteer is to help prepare and serve substantial soup to feed our guests. If you are interested in cooking or serving soup, please contact Diana Miller. The greatest need right now is for soup servers. Voluteers if you would like to review the volunteer manual and reference guide, please click here.