A coalition of churches is helping to keep the homeless warm this winter.
Manassas Hope for the Homeless is an organization that was founded by several Manassas area churches, including Manassas Baptist Church, Grace United Methodist, Chapel Springs, First Baptist, All Saints Catholic and Manassas Presbyterian, three years ago.
“About three years ago, I was having lunch with two or three friends at other churches and we got to talking about the homeless community, and it was right before the polar vortex thing started to happen…we were really nervous about the homeless community – what would they do…It makes no sense to have church buildings – large buildings that are heated at night – but yet, they’re just sitting empty,” said Pastor Mike Clements of Manassas Baptist Church.
After meeting with the group, it was decided that they would open an emergency warming and hypothermia shelter for the community’s homeless, run equally by all of the churches involved.
“We purposely sought to keep it from being a ministry of any one church. We wanted people in the community to see churches working together, instead of against each other,” said Clements.
The shelter is located on 8730 Sudley Road in Manassas, according to Clements. The building used to be a school building for Marstellar Middle School, according to Clements.
The homeless can access the shelter for a warm place to lay their head and a meal during extreme weather.
“If it’s a night that is going to be dangerously cold, and we consider that to be 20 to 30 [degrees] and below,” said Clements.
So far, the organization has gotten feedback that the shelter is seen as a safe haven for the area’s homeless.
“The largest population of homeless is in the Woodbridge area, and the homeless population in Manassas is not as great…we do have a lot of guys that will either walk or hitchhike from Woodbridge to come up to our shelter, because they say it’s not as violent, it’s not as loud, and they feel safer there,” said Clements.
The frigid temperatures that have moved into the region mean that the shelter will be open today and tomorrow, and through January 22 and 23, according to the Manassas Hope for the Homeless website. This means that the shelter will be in need of volunteers that can assist with driving, intake and food donations.
According to Clements, people can sign up to volunteer on the group’s website and that training is provided.
“It’s a group of people who really take Jesus seriously when he talks about, ‘If you want to follow me, then be a servant’…and that’s what our desire is,” said Clements.
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments estimates that 406 people in Prince William County are homeless, with 136 of them being children.