Salisbury Church Partners With Community to Open Homeless Shelter
Story by Evan Knott / Video by Melvin Donadelle
When a local non-profit organization supporting homeless men in Salisbury, Md., needed a new location for its winter shelter, Chesapeake Conference's Park church decided to lend a hand.
Hands and Hearts Ending Homelessness (HHEH) was founded 18 years ago after three men froze to death in Salisbury. The organization partners with the city government and area churches of different denominations to aid homeless men in the city.
For the last three years, the director of HHEH has been Walter Davidson, a member of the Park church. When HHEH needed to find another location for the shelter this year, Davidson reached out to his home congregation right away.
“It’s very gratifying to have my church come alongside this ministry and pick this ministry up and run with it,” Davidson says.
Greg Carlson, pastor of the Park church, approached the church board about utilizing the community service building that sits across the parking lot from the church as a shelter, and the board unanimously agreed.
“You could sense the Holy Spirit in the room in that board meeting,” Carlson says. “We have this building, and, of course, during COVID, we weren’t using it much at all. How could we not serve the community with the community outreach building?”
With the board’s approval, members converted the church’s community outreach building into a shelter, bringing in beds and setting up area dividers. The shelter opened to serve the community on Nov. 6.
In addition to providing nightly lodging, the men’s shelter offers hot showers, clean clothes, haircuts, and warm meals. HHEH also works to find permanent housing for the men, which they achieved for more than 20 men last year.
Hosting the shelter at the Park church has provided opportunities for members to get involved in hands-on ministry through helping to prepare meals, providing supervision, and getting to know the men personally. Many of the men who have stayed at the shelter have chosen to attend the church’s Friday night vespers program and Sabbath morning worship service.
“It’s been a tremendous blessing to our church,” Carlson says. “I’ve had more guests on the campus of the Park church in the last 30 days than I did in five years.”
Partnering with HHEH to host the shelter is the latest example of the Park church’s commitment to collaborating with local community organizations and government agencies to serve those in need. The church previously worked with its partners to open a community center in the city this summer. According to Carlson, these partnerships are essential for effective community witness and outreach.
“Partnerships with other community organizations are key, and I think it’s something that Adventists have been deficient in for a long time,” Carlson says. “We’re now [building those relationships] here in Salisbury. If I walk down the street and see the mayor, he knows me, and I know him. These connections are wonderful. It tells people that, “Hey, the Adventists do care!’”
The Park church has committed to hosting the men’s shelter in its facility through April 2022.
“We would like to end homelessness; we know that’s not going to happen,” Davidson says. “But we’re going to take a big bite out of it.”