FUMC is participating in the Cold Weather Shelter Program through Front Steps at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH). Front Steps coordinates with local churches and city emergency officials to open additional space to provide temporary overnight shelter on freezing nights. Austin’s lack of shelter space forces many people experiencing homelessness to sleep outside during winter months.
FUMC provides shelter for up to 25 women on Tuesday nights when the predicted overnight low is expected to be 35 degrees and wet or 32 degrees and dry. The Front Steps’ Cold Weather Shelter Coordinator makes a decision by noon whether to activate faith-based facilities for that night.
An email will be sent to everyone signed up on here, as well as the CWS group I have created, when the CW Shelter has been activated.
Again, volunteers will receive an email mid-day any Tuesday that the CWS is activated.
Volunteer responsibilities for the CWS include:
- Food items may be dropped off at church office before 5:30pm; FLC after 5:30 (except New Year's Day - the office is closed, so all food items need to be dropped off to the FLC after 4:40pm).
- 4:30pm - 6:00pm Open doors/Set-up: Three individuals are needed to pull out mats, blankets, toiletries, towels before the women arrive
- 5:15pm - 7:30pm Dinner Hosts: Two individuals are needed to prepare dinner to be served (served at 6:00/6:15 pm). Dinner hosts may leave after dinner has been served and cleaned up. Other volunteers will provide items for meal (unless, of course, you sign up for both, which is great!)
- 5:45pm - 8:15pm Evening Hosts: welcome women as they arrive and help get them settled. Women arrive by city bus at ~6/6:15 pm. Please plan on eating with our guests. Evening hosts may leave once overnight hosts arrive and are ready to take the lead.
- 7:00pm - 9:30pm Fellowship/Movie/Card games: Some of our guests prefer to go to sleep right after dinner, while others stay up and like to visit or just hang out. We'll provide a space downstairs for visiting, playing cards, or watching a movie. This is an opportunity to just be present and enjoy the evening with our guests.
- 8:00pm - 7:00am Overnight Hosts: Two or three individuals are needed to spend the night with the women. Please arrive by 8pm. The women tend to be ready for lights out by 9 pm. They are picked up by bus at 6 am. After a light clean-up, volunteers can leave between 6:30 and 7:00 am.
- Laundry: Please pick up laundry from the FLC on Wednesday or Thursday and return to the FLC on Sunday. Please coordinate with Pastor Cathy.
- dinner items: main dish, sides, desert, milk, hot chocolate (individual packets)
- breakfast items: coffee, fruit, pastries/muffins or other "to-go" type items
- towels for showers
- toiletry items (travel size to give out, as well as family size to use throughout CWS season)
I invite you to experience the blessings of serving these women on such cold nights. In the past we have shared a hot meal, conversation, hot chocolate, and sometimes even a movie! I hope you will join us in this ministry that makes a difference in the lives of these women when it’s really cold outside -- and trust me, it will make a difference in your life as well!
Blessings -- and stay warm!