Weekend Feature: Churches Work Together to Provide a Place for the Homeless
by AT News Team
When Chick Carroll and his friends, Ed Bradley and George Hardy, learned that the homeless shelter in their town, Tedford Housing near Brunswick, Maine, often has to turn away dozens of folks every night, they wanted to help. At first, they thought they might build a second shelter, but the task was daunting. It would take a lot of money, and how could they raise it? “We were just three guys,” Carroll said. Then they learned that not only does the shelter turn away folks, but it is closed during the day. What about a daytime drop-in center?
The local Adventist Church had a community center which already provided social services such as a tutoring program, Youth Volunteer Corps, health screening, inner city missions and disaster response. Not only that, it was just a short walk from the food pantry run by Mid-Coast Hunger Prevention Program. The church agreed to provide space and in January 2011 The Gathering Place, staffed entirely by volunteers, opened its doors. It immediately became popular. People with nowhere else to go during the day, especially in bad weather, came to sit, talk, snack or use the free wireless running on three donated laptops.
It is not just the homeless who come here. Locals like to stop in and “have a cuppa,” as The Gathering Place’s website invites. “The Gathering Place came about when a number of Brunswick faith communities identified a need to provide a safe and friendly space for people during the day. We welcome all who enter … whether as guests or volunteers, as they are all our sisters and brothers in God’s creation, and deserving of our love and respect.”
The sponsors include the regional interfaith council and churches of four denominations. Donations are not received by the program, but through the sponsors. The Gathering Place is a living lesson in what can be accomplished when an entire community works together with one goal.
It is “a warm, dry, comfortable place,” said a local online paper called The Forecaster. The report included stories of some of the people who take advantage of the friendly atmosphere of the center and are grateful for it.
A volunteer praised “the enormous generosity” of the Adventists who gave The Gathering Place a home. She said there would be no Gathering Place without the Adventist Church and that “we are all indebted to them.”
While her sentiments are heartwarming it is probably not strictly true. God seemed to be working through many groups and individuals in the community. Chick Carroll and his friends would have found another place if the Adventist Church had declined to help. What is definitely true is that if the Brunswick Adventist Church had not been open to working together with other local Christian groups, it would have missed out on the tremendous blessings that are burgeoning in The Gathering Place. And its reputation would have had a different flavor entirely.
For more information or if you want to help: www.brunswickgatheringplace.org