Warm Welcome Shelter Recap + Looking Ahead

Warm Welcome Shelter Recap + Looking Ahead

Thank you to all those who donated money, food, supplies, and your time to make this year’s Warm Welcome Shelter possible.

This year, Grassroots is housing around 34 men, women, and children over the winter months in a hotel in Columbia. This emergency winter shelter runs from November through March, and has been crucial for those who are currently without a home in Howard County and who are lucky enough to get a spot.

As many of you know, pre-Covid the Warm Welcome Shelter was hosted for a week at OBIC. During Covid the county transitioned guests to a hotel. This year, the plan was initially to host people at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Insurance was a financial barrier, so the plan transitioned to having the shelter held at the Day One Resource Center. If you haven’t been there before, it is beautiful new(ish) facility that Grassroots moved to in Jessup in 2017. There, staff and volunteers are able to provide hot meals, showers, and laundry services, as well as helping people sign up for health insurance, obtain documentation such as birth certificates, social security cards, and MVA ID. They also provide crucial assistance to people looking to obtain permanent housing. It is a wonderful place.

Not long after we began planning for hosting guests at the Day Center, the county decided that the facilities needed some renovations before guests could be placed there. There were valid concerns. There was only one large space for guests to sleep, and men and women would be separated by partitions. Covid and flu numbers were on the rise, and the potential for an outbreak of illness was a concern. The parking lot is not well lit, and parking is limited. Renovations to the space have begun and will be completed later in 2024. In the meantime, the shelter will remain at the hotel until it closes at the end of March.

There have been many ongoing conversations between leaders of host congregations and the leaders at Grassroots about how the planning of the Warm Welcome Shelter could be made better, and also how frustrated many of us were at the disorganization and seemingly low priority of planning housing for people who are unhoused over the winter months. All of the decisions are made at the county level, and nothing was put in place before the shelter opened in November. Howard County is one of the richest counties in the country, yet services for its most vulnerable citizens are far from ideal. That Howard County could only manage to house 34 individuals through the winter months reveals where the county’s priorities lie.

Despite all of the planning obstacles, our week hosting the Warm Welcome Shelter at the hotel went well. There were volunteers from several OBIC congregations who served meals to the guests, and we were able to provide wonderful catered meals throughout the week. The guests were very kind and thankful, and included single men, women, and families with little ones. My hope is that in the years to come there will be better safeguards in place to help those who need it most, and that UUCC and all the congregations at OBIC come together to help support Grassroots with their important work.


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *