This Year’s Warm Welcome Shelter Week

This Year’s Warm Welcome Shelter Week

UUCC has had the privilege of hosting the Grassroots overflow cold weather shelter (or as we call it, the Warm Welcome Shelter) for over a decade. We are one of several congregations around Howard County taking turns to sponsor a week in which all the needs of individuals and families without permanent housing are provided for. Pre-COVID this meant that UUCC turned into a shelter, housing guests for the week and providing all meals, transportation, laundry service, and hospitality. Dana Sohr has coordinated this beautifully each year; providing training to the volunteers and overseeing all the details of the week. Hosting at UUCC meant that many members were involved and were able to have meaningful interactions with our guests. YRUU night was always a highlight for me, with the youth providing a traditional Thanksgiving meal for our guests. 

Photos — Pre-COVID Warm Welcome Shelter week at our Owen Brown Interfaith Center

COVID has changed the way we host the Warm Welcome Shelter. Grassroots now arranges for the guests to be housed in a hotel with all food provided, and host congregations have minimal contact with guests. During this time, UUCC has continued to provide generously; covering the costs of meals for one week, and providing volunteers to deliver the meals to residents each night. I am always heartened to see people give of their time and money each year. While the physical location has changed, the services have not. Families and individuals are given food, shelter, and assistance in finding safe, affordable, and permanent housing.

This year UUCC came together once again to host a week of caring, beginning February 6. We had two volunteers come each evening to distribute meals to the guests, and we are so very grateful for them. Thanks goes to our UUCC community members who volunteered — Rita Allen, Norma Byers, Jill Christianson, Jen Hayashi, Pamela Henry, Mika Hsu, Mariam Khambaty, Eric Kieley, Kevin Mercer, Bob Muller, Paul Nagy, Alice Pham, Margie Reyes, Dana Sohr, and Stuart TenHoor.

Many of the people housed this year were families with children. One family spoke little English. I cannot imagine how difficult it is to navigate an already complicated system without knowing the language. All of the people I encountered were very kind and grateful, and the Grassroots staff was supportive and helpful to both the guests and volunteers. One guest made a point of asking one of our volunteers which church she went to, as we were the only church in her time there that provided “real food”. It was wonderful for me to see the shelter in action. The guests have their own private suite complete with a kitchenette, and the ability to come and go as they like without having to worry about their belongings or arriving and departing the church at specific times. This was especially beneficial when temperatures recently dipped below 20 degrees. It’s a much more dignified environment.

Photos — from this year’s Warm Welcome Shelter week

Grassroots will continue to operate the overflow shelter until the end of March, and my hope is that the people housed there temporarily will be able to be placed in permanent homes. I’m proud that UUCC values the work that Grassroots does, and grateful to be part of a community that always comes together to support the Warm Welcome Shelter.


  1. Stuart TenHoor

    Thanks to Paul and Paula (and of course to Dana) for recruiting, mobilizing and directing all of us to provide support to our guests.

  2. Bob Jackson

    Thanks for providing this update of this year’s “Warm Welcome” shelter. I provided some snack foods but did not get to meet the clients this year. Having lots of kids would have made it difficult to host in OBIC. It sounds like it was a better arrangement for the families.

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