WALLINGFORD — After opening earlier this month and operating at full capacity, the Wallingford Emergency Shelter is in need of more volunteers to work overnight shifts, according to Executive Director Thomas Thurber.
“Historically, the Wallingford Emergency Shelter was formed by and run by volunteers. There was no paid staff,” Thurber said. “... Fortunately for us, up to the last year or year before, we were able to rely on volunteers.”
The emergency shelter at 123 Quinnipiac St. has been in existence for more than 20 years. It provides temporary housing and meals during the colder months from Nov. 1 through April 15.
The shelter can house 15 people and is at capacity, according to John Bruce, case manager with the Wallingford Emergency Shelter. Clients come in at 6:30 p.m. each night and must leave the building by 8 a.m. the next morning. Each person gets 10 days to stay at the shelter, with the possibility of extending their stay to a maximum of 50 days, Bruce said.
To stay longer, Bruce said clients have to complete goals, which can include doing chores or interviewing for a job. Bruce emphasized that the shelter isn’t an “end destination.”
“This is a place to begin and make a fresh start, not just a place to come and sleep and get three meals,” he explained. “It’s a place to come to better yourself.”
But to keep the doors open, Thurber said the “only pressing need” is recruiting more volunteers, specifically for the overnight shift. During the shift, which usually runs from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., Thurber said the only staff member on duty is a part-time employee. Despite having one staff member, “the need is for two,” Thurber emphasized.
In the past, the shelter used to work with individuals who owed community service hours. However, Thurber said its becoming more difficult to find someone. In an effort to recruit more volunteers, Thurber said he’s been communicating with churches and different civic groups.
“It’s left us in a situation where we have to plead and beg to get someone to do that overnight shift,” Thurber said. “Even if it’s one night a month, if we could get enough volunteers, it would take a lot of pressure off of us.”
Despite his efforts, Thurber admitted the search for volunteers “isn’t going so well.” For now, he’ll continue trying to find people to complete an overnight shift to help those in the community.
“We’re white-knuckling it,” he said. “I’ll continue to speak to churches and civic organizations to try to step it up a little bit to bring the need and attention to the public. Hopefully it’ll go well.”