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CHESTER — Haven Ministries will shortly be wrapping up its winter season, which the director of operations considers one of the homeless shelter’s busiest, including a time when it was at capacity with 15 people, including 10 children.
“We’ve had busy years, but not this consistent and got this many children before,” said Sandi Wiscott, the shelter’s director of operations and case manager.
She said the guests come in and transition out. “This time, it took longer because of the needs being greater. They need to find the jobs and day care,” she said.
The shelter opened for the season Dec. 1, 2016, and normally stops taking guests the first or second Saturday in April, but this year, the shelter has extended its time to receive guests because of the need. The last night this year will be April 25.
On Friday, April 7, the shelter was at capacity. On Monday, April 10, Wiscott said a family moved out of state, but will come back to the shelter and retrieve their furniture from the local home where they couldn’t pay the rent and became homeless.
Some guests work at a job, their kids go to school or are in day care. Sometimes a scholarship is donated to enable the children to attend day care which enables the parent to go to work or find employment. After that, they are able to find housing. “But that process takes time,” Wiscott said.
Men are allowed at the shelter, but this year, the guests have been mostly women and children. If men stay at the shelter, partitions are used in the bedding area.
The shelter gives the guests hope after the guests lost everything. “It takes a while to build up hope for them and as they gradually see that things can be different. They look at things and know that it’s hopeful,” she said.
The shelter consists of two rooms on the second floor of the Kent Island United Methodist Church on Cox Neck Road in Chester. One room has bunk beds and a baby bed. The other has a living room, dining room, and a partial kitchen in one room.
The kitchen doesn’t have a stove or sink, but instead a microwave. Volunteers bring up food from the church kitchen, guests receive a bagged lunch, and dinner is served when they get back.
At first when the shelter opened, it had a few people come in, but it gradually built up to a consistent 10 to 12, and then at capacity.
If the guests aren’t working, they can go to the library, the college, or the resource room complete with computers at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Centreville. Haven Ministries expanded its reach in Queen Anne’s County by opening the resource center at St. Paul’s, offering services to residents who need information on financial counseling, job training, wellness, limited pastoral counseling and enrichment classes.
Haven Ministries has a van. If the guests come by van from the resource room, they can come back to the shelter at 4:30 p.m. Other people check in between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
When working, the guests can take their children to day care at a different location, or their children can attend school or sometimes the parents can take their children to the resource center. Social Services helps with evaluating the adult guests and offering job training, sometimes at the resource center or at the Social Services’ location.
The guests aren’t required to attend church on Sunday, but they can go to the church where the shelter is located or to another church. In the list of churches the shelter has, they can get a ride there.
During the week, there are Bible study sessions and devotions where someone from a church will give them a ride if needed.
About 250 people volunteer for the shelter, helping in the kitchen, driving the van, or assisting at the resource room or at the thrift store.
“The main thing is we try to establish hope for a better future and not be homeless,” Wiscott said.
Sandi Wiscott, director of operations at Haven Ministries, shows the bedroom where the guests stay at the homeless shelter inside Kent Island United Methodist Church in Chester.