Information Meeting on a Temporary Winter Shelter at First Churches

 

The City of Northampton and Service Net has approached First Churches to find suitable shelter for people who are homeless this winter.  We would like to inform and hear from you, so I am inviting you to a Question and Answer session after church this Sunday via Zoom at 10:45 AM.  If you are unable to attend, please send questions or concerns via email.  It would be best to copy both moderator@firstchurches.org and Pastortodd@firstchurches.org, so the staff and Board have copies.

 

This project has been a fast timeline since cold weather is near, and other options have not materialized.  The first call came to me last Tuesday afternoon, November 3.  We had a feasibility walk-through Thursday afternoon with several Board and Property Team people from the Health, Building, Fire Departments, and the Mayor’s office.  They thought the space was viable, so we scheduled meetings this week with the Property Team on Monday and the Board on Tuesday.  We are hoping to decide at the Board meeting next Wednesday, November 18.  Our staff and leadership are working quickly to assess what we need to make the decision, and here is a quick overview of what we know.

 

The Plan

 

Service Net would rent Lyman Hall, the Parlor, the Recreation Room, and two offices in the basement from December 1 till May 1, 2021.  They will provide staffing for 30 guests.  The operation will be 24/7, so guests also have a place to be warm during the day.  Only guests who are signed up and tested every two weeks may enter.  The City Health Department will support Service Net, and Manna will deliver lunch and dinner.  Our potential partners operated the shelter at the high school in the Spring and have clear protocols to ensure everyone’s health and safety.  They only had one person COVID-infected, and it did not spread to other people.  We have plans to ensure the building is segmented and our staff is safe.

 

The Agreement

 

This email is a summary of a very detailed and complicated agreement we are developing with Service Net. Due to COVID, more significant resources are available to help with costs. They intend to offer the following to the church:

  • Rent to cover all costs of utilities, facilities, and overhead.
  • They will pay upfront and exit costs to get the space ready, such as moving furniture to safer places, covering our hardwood floors with protection and safety features.
  • They will place a security deposit.
  • Contingency funds are set aside for any repairs or damage that may occur from the operations.
  • The church is covered by Service Net liability insurance.
  • Service Net will contract a cleaning service for their area.
  • They will staff the program that will keep people and our building safe.

 

I’m sure you have dozens of questions and ideas, and I could fill several pages with details.  For now, the Board recommended I write to you today, so you have an overview.   We will have fuller information on Sunday.  You may notice that hosting a shelter until May 1 would make it very difficult to have in-person worship before that time.  According to protocols set by the UCC, it is not very likely we would resume regular worship before that time.  You probably know some congregations holding in-person services, but there are also widespread reports of churches becoming super-spreader sites.  I would be heartbroken if any of you died from COVID because you came to our church.  If we are fortunate enough that COVID is gone before May 1, we will partner with another downtown church to find a way to meet together.  It will be a joyous day when we can do that again.  In the meantime, I hope we can find a way to do some good with our building.

 

I appreciate our staff, Board, and property team for their skills and willingness to engage.  Everyone involved so far is committed to our mission to serve others, and our desire to keep our building a beautiful and sacred place.  We hope to be good stewards of all God has put in our hands and live the good news of God’s love and justice for everyone.

 

Pastor Todd