Ventures in Community Hypothermia Outreach Program's shelter is opening two days late on Dec. 3; but, the real question is what will happen on Dec. 4.
An acute shortage of volunteers is placing the shelter in jeopardy of not being able to fully operate this winter, according to Sherry Edelkamp, VIC-HOP coordinator with New Hope Housing. This will place many homeless people at risk as the nights grow colder.
Last year, VIC, a coalition of 12 churches in southeastern Fairfax County, was able to shelter more than 120 individuals during the winter months through the volunteer efforts of members from that faith community, according to the Rev. Keary Kincannon, pastor, Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church.
The hypothermia shelter is located at his church, 8220 Russell Road, just off Route 1 in Lee District. "It is open during the winter to prevent any deaths from freezing among the area's homeless population," Kincannon said. There have been no hypothermia-related deaths among the homeless in the Mount Vernon area since the program was initiated.
"At this time, three of the seven nights each week are in need of volunteers. Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday nights are still not covered in December and January. The program will be closed those nights if we can't get them covered," said Edelkamp.
"The homeless will be forced to sleep outside a total of 22 nights during the coldest time of the year. We do not feel this is acceptable but we will have no choice if volunteers do not step forward," she said.
"The other problem is that there are no soup kitchens open along the Route 1 corridor on weekends. If the homeless can not come to Rising Hope they will also go without hot food from Friday to Monday on the nights we can not open," Edelkamp said.
"We need people to provide meals for approximately 30 people at the shelter each night it is open. They can prepare the food elsewhere and bring it to Rising Hope," she said. Each night the shelter is open a hot meal is served between 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., according to Edelkamp.
"We are hopeful that each congregation can find two people willing to prepare and serve meals and three people, including at least one woman, to chaperon one night out of the two months in need," she said. February and March are fully covered, as is Christmas night, Tuesday, Dec. 25, according to Kincannon.
The shelter is open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. The goal is to have four
volunteers for each night so that two are awake at all times. "We need two people, hopefully one man and one woman, awake throughout the 12 hours," Edelkamp explained.
"If every congregation took just one night we'd be covered. Perhaps volunteers can split the shift. One from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. and a second from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m.," she suggested.
The nights that still require chaperons at this time are: December 4, 11, 15, 18, 22, 23, 29 and 30; and January 1, 5, 6, 8, 12, 13, 15, 19, 20, 22, 26, 27 and 29.
For additional information, contact Sherry Edelkamp at 703-799-1255 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.