Cold weather shelters for the homeless are opening in Davis for the upcoming winter months. Among these are the Cold Weather Shelter, a program within Davis Community Meals, and the Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter (IRWS).
These shelters are open on a nightly basis and provide food and housing for those in need in our Davis community. All programs are mostly run by volunteer community members and students.
“Each volunteer has a good heart, giving their food and time to stay and monitor the guests,” said Mary Anne Kirsch, co-chair for the IRWS. “These are volunteers from all walks of life and have a variety of different responsibilities.”
According to Bill Pride, the executive director for Davis Community Meals, volunteers make up 95 percent of the shelter workforce, and students make up 85 to 90 percent of those volunteers.
“It just helps me to know that I’m doing something worthwhile,” said Roshy Agahi, Los Angeles Food Bank volunteer and a fourth-year food science major. “I’ve worked with the homeless on many occasions, and I hope that every little bit counts.”
The IRWS is open every night for fifteen weeks of the year, between Dec. 1 and Mar. 15. The shelter’s location will change weekly according to a set schedule, and so will the capacity of patrons it can accommodate, which is usually between 25 and 40.
“Our mission is to give emergency shelter to people in the cold months who don’t have a roof over their heads,” Kirsch said. “There is no criteria for our guests, except that they can conduct themselves respectfully so that they can make it a nice, quiet place for everyone.”
According to Kirsch, the term “interfaith” represents the idea of the shelter that they will accept anybody of any or no religious beliefs, and that the shelter rotates between congregations of varied Christian denominations, synagogues and Quaker establishments, among others.
The Davis Cold Weather Shelter collaborates with the IRWS in their goals to keep the homeless off of the streets. Both programs are non-profit and food is donated by the community or religious organizations on different nights of every week.
The IRWS and the Cold Weather Shelter are nearly entirely volunteer-run and have volunteers who either prepare meals in the morning and evening, or stay overnight with the guests to make sure that everything is in order and operates smoothly.
The IRWS has had approximately 1,100 volunteers throughout the last year, and the Cold Weather Shelter, whose volunteers are trained more thoroughly and repeat assistance consistently, range between 25 and 30 per year.
The Davis Cold Weather Shelter is a branch program off of Davis Community Meals, which started as a soup kitchen in February 1991.
According to Pride, the establishment is an old home of 1,100 square feet owned by the City of Davis with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen. The shelter, located at 512 Fifth Street, will be open between mid-November and Mar. 31, for the eighth year.
“It gets people out of the cold, wet and rain,” said Inessa Snyder, resource center coordinator of Davis Community Meals. “Which is great, especially for those who don’t otherwise come in for help.”
The shelter can house eight males and two females, with separate gender-based quarters for individual comfort. This ratio mirrors the homeless population.
“What makes us different from the other shelters is that we consciously take in patrons that suffer from alcohol and drug use,” Pride said.
Cold Weather Shelter volunteers receive training to deal with problems, aggressive behavior, recognizing symptoms and noting how behavior changes in mental health clients.
“I’m excited to start volunteering there and I think every town needs something like this program to help these people get back on their feet,” said Robyn Lindsay, a volunteer at the Davis Cold Weather Shelter and a fourth-year genetics major.
According to Pride, many of the homeless are mentally disabled with families that are unable to support the difficult dynamics that their situations bring into their lives. For this reason, they have found themselves struggling without permanent living situations, or cycling between governmental confinement facilities and the streets.
“Volunteers are prepared well for careers in medicine, health, nutrition, social work, sociology and psychology, to name a few,” Pride said. “These are just some folks that have been left behind by the world because of the social functions and social changes. Everything has become more diffuse, but you can do a lot to help.”
For more information on these programs, please visit: interfaith-shelter.org and daviscommunitymeals.org.