Greater Falls Warming Shelter still needs volunteers

On a recent single-digit 6:45 a.m., a friend of the Greater Falls Warming Shelter, setting out on his day's activities, swung by the shelter and dropped off warm socks for the guests.

“I thought they could use them,” he later explained.

His generosity is typical of the warmth that has been generated for the guests of the shelter as the public imagines what it must be like not to have a safe, warm place to go when the temperature drops as low as it has this winter.

The shelter, at 23 Church St., principally serves towns in the Greater Falls area, including Rockingham, Westminster, Athens, Grafton, North Walpole and Walpole, N.H.

The shelter has reached its 10-guest capacity most nights, and although tensions can run high when that many vulnerable people, each with his or her own problems, live in close quarters, guests told The Commons they are grateful to have the resource.

“I have nowhere else to go,” a guest explained. “This is my home. If it weren't here, I'd have to sleep under a bridge. I can't go home.”

Home is a theme that runs through the guests' comments - and is evinced by the proprietary feelings they have toward the shelter.

“It's like having a home again,” another said. “It's warm, with friends and friendly volunteers. The other guests are like my brothers and sisters.”

Another guest adds: “To me, it's home. I have this little family. We look out for each other. We seem to respect each other. It's the first time for me [to be homeless], so it's very, very important. It makes me feel safe.”

The shelter opened for the season on Nov. 18, 2013, and will remain open until the middle of April. Staff say that, this season through January, it had housed 27 folks for a combined 563 bed nights.

“Now that we're up and running, our biggest concern is finding enough volunteers,” explains shelter coordinator Deborah Clark. “We need two people for each shift: 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., and 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. We have dedicated, caring people, but we always need more.”

She explained that several of her regular 1 a.m. volunteers have been sidelined with medical problems, so she is especially taxed to fill their slots.

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