For years, the island's social services agencies have talked about the growing number of homeless people on Nantucket and the need to not only acknowledge the problem, but to take action. Over the past two years, The Warming Place has stepped into that void by creating a day shelter to provide a warm space and hot meals for Nantucket's unhoused. But there was no option to provide those services at night - until now.
Just as temperatures are dropping with winter settling in, The Warming Place and a coalition of island churches are launching an overnight shelter for adults starting tonight. The location will rotate among a handful of Nantucket's religious sanctuaries - including the United Methodist Church, the Summer Street Church, and the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House - six nights per week, from Monday through Saturday. Dinner and breakfast will be provided to all, and the shelters will be open to those in need from 6 p.m. at night through 7:30 a.m. the following morning.
The overnight shelter is being launched "in response to the growing number of individuals experiencing homelessness," according to Carol Benchly and Deb DuBois, two of The Warming Place's leaders.
But the program is still just getting off the ground, and The Warming Place is looking for the community's assistance. First and foremost, The Warming Place is hoping to keep the overnight shelter open seven nights per week, and it is looking for another location to host the shelter on Sunday nights. And The Warming Place is in need of volunteers to help keep the program running.
The Warming Place will be operating under the auspices of Nantucket Food, Fuel, and Rental Assistance, an outreach service of the Nantucket Interfaith Council. Since it announced its intention to launch the overnight shelter earlier this year, The Warming Place has received support from a core group of leaders and volunteers, along with island non-profits, businesses, and other agencies that have donated to the cause.
"Along with the need for affordable housing, Nantucket, like many other places, has a growing homelessness crisis," Benchley and DuBois told the Current earlier this year. "These individuals and families are fellow community members who, for various reasons, have found themselves without adequate shelter. For example, they may have lost a job that included housing, been evicted or are suffering from a long-term health condition, such as mental illness, substance use disorder or a physical disability."
Beyond some of the well-publicized cases of people living in overcrowded or substandard housing, they said, there are others on Nantucket living in tents, cars, sheds, and other spaces that are not adequate for overnight shelter. They believe there are as many as 30 to 40 individuals on Nantucket who are inadequately sheltered.
The initial schedule for the overnight shelter is as follows:
- Monday & Tuesday: United Methodist Church, 2 Centre Street
- Wednesday: Summer Street Church, 1 Summer Street
- Thursday: Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, 11 Orange Street
- Friday & Saturday: Summer Street Church, 1 Summer Street
Anyone looking to volunteer can sign up for a shift at this link or email firstname.lastname@example.org or text 484-467-6871. Donations can be sent to The Warming Place, PO Box 3334, Nantucket, MA 02584, or paid online by clicking here.