Overnight warming center for homeless asking churches to keep people out of the cold

Jesse Leavenworth, Hartford Courant
·2 min read

Leaders of the overnight warming center in Manchester are asking local churches to shelter people who are homeless during the day.

“It’s heartbreaking to have to put people out on the street for the day when the weather is so cold,” a message sent to churches on Friday says, “and all the more when it’s snowing!”

The regional center, which opened late last month, is to operate seven days a week through March 31. At least temporarily, the facility fills a gap left when the MACC Charities homeless shelter closed in 2015.

Housed at the Community Y, 78 North Main St., the warming center is open from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. and has been hosting up to eight guests each night, center Director Bryan Flint, who also is deputy director at Cornerstone of Vernon, said Monday.

Cornerstone, which operates homeless shelters and other services in Vernon, manages the warming center on behalf of the faith-based Greater Manchester Peace and Justice Committee. Town recreational programs that usually run in the building have been on hold during the coronavirus pandemic.

Manchester Human Services Director Joel Cox said the center “has been a pretty well run operation so far” and town officials are gaining more insight into the local un-sheltered population.

“I think the partnership with Cornerstone has been beneficial to the town,” Cox said.

Town officials allowed people to stay at the center in the daytime during a recent storm, Flint said, but recently he has been picking guests up in the morning and taking them to Vernon so they can shower and eat and have a place to stay during the daytime hours.

Center guests have been mainly homeless Manchester people, Flint said. Warming center leaders are asking local churches to accommodate up to eight people from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., even for one day a week through the end of March.

Flint and Susan Stoppelman of the Peace and Justice Committee said Monday that they have not received any replies to the call for help sent Friday, but some church representatives had to be notified by regular mail, so responses may not come until later in the week.

The warming center is not allowed to have beds, but Flint said guests have been provided with portable reclining chairs. Without the center, they would be outside, in tents or “in their cars at night with lots of blankets, if they’re lucky enough to have a car,” Flint said.

Shelter staff are advising guests about housing and job resources, he said, and have helped some people submit applications to Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s restaurants.

“Most people, they just need a chance,” Flint said.

Jesse Leavenworth can be reached at jleavenworth@courant.com