COVID has been tough on everyone. It’s especially hard on homeless men and women.
Westport has a long history of helping. An interfaith project that began nearly 40 years ago has evolved into Homes with Hope — a multi-pronged non-profit dedicated to preventing and ending homelessness in Fairfield County.
They offer emergency shelter for men and women, supportive housing for individuals and families, rapid re-housing, diversion services, a community kitchen and food pantry, youth development programs and mentoring.
From the start, Westporters pitched in to help. Among the most important: donating food, and serving meals.
Food donations have continued since the pandemic began. Clubs, religious institutions and others have kept their commitments.
“I’ve never seen a community like Westport,” says Homes with Hope executive director Helen McAlinden. “Everyone wants to help. They do so much for us.”
But the Gillespie Center — the men’s shelter behind Barnes & Noble, and across from the police station — has been closed to volunteers, as a safety measure.
She knows they miss seeing the clients they cook for, and once served meals too. She hopes volunteers can return soon to Gillespie Center. In the meantime, she thanks the town for its continued support.
However, the past 18 months have taken a toll on fundraising. Annual events like Gather Round the Table, Fashionably Westport and Summer Nights were canceled last year and this.
The Standup for Comedy event went virtual. Though successful, it did not generate the buzz — and awareness of Homes with Hope — that it does, live and in person at the Quick Center.
McAlinden worries that not enough people in town know about Homes with Hope. New residents especially may be aware that a few yards from Tiffany, one of the nation’s oldest suburban homeless shelters serves people — including Westporters — who have fallen on hard times.
She wants every resident to hear about (and see) her organization’s many programs and projects. She’ll talk about (and show) the Gillespie Center and Hoskins Place men’s and women’s shelters; Project Return/Susie’s House for young women; Powell Place and Linxweiler House, the Bacharach Community for victims of domestic abuse and their children, and after-school programs.
“We’re more than just a homeless shelter,” she adds. “We help all vulnerable people, with food and housing.”
Interested? Call McAlinden at 475-225-5292 for a tour
You can donate too, of course. Click here.
And keep an eye out for information on when volunteers will again be able to serve meals at Gillespie Center. The line of helpers — and recipients — will be long.