CAMBRIDGE — Two churches and local volunteers have joined to create a homeless shelter offering a range of assistance and services, while leaders look to future needs of those going through a difficult time in their lives.
The Transitional Shelter and the White Flag Shelter, both located at The Salvation Army in Cambridge on Washington Street comprise not only the original facility, but also the resources of the Cold Weather Shelter, formerly at the Wesleyan Church on Race Street. The increased number of beds and services mean that the cooperative organization can provide a roof and meals, as well as guidance in medical, job training and housing issues, among others. It hasn’t always been simple to meld the two operations, but it’s now it’s happening. “It’s the third year, and things have improved,” Chair of the Salvation Army Board Allen Nelson said at a meeting last week. “What we’re doing now is to think strategically, to think forward — what are the next steps?”
There are trailers on the site now, so with the extra beds available, a new building might not be necessary. Still, shelter leaders believe consultation with other concerned groups and individuals will be necessary to move programs forward. “We need to bring in other conversation partners,” said the Rev. Robert White, vice president of the Cold Weather Shelter. Part of the challenge in the last two or three years has been combining the two formerly separate shelters, and their methods of assistance. Lt. Wendy Parson of The Salvation Army sent a letter to volunteers, clarifying the way forward. “We will be moving to providing shelter in two very different manners,” she said.
“1st – Transitional Shelter. This will be in the permanent structure located on our property. This program will allow 28 continuous days of shelter with shower facilities, laundry facilities, breakfast and dinner, and case work. The case work is required for the guest to participate in and includes job search, housing search, documentation acquisition, and future support structure building. The transitional shelter maintains a zero tolerance policy on the use of drugs and alcohol. “2nd – White Flag Shelter. This will be a zero barrier shelter for drop-in nightly shelter only. This will be housed in the two trailers on our property. One for men and one for women. Guests are given a bed, access to the bathroom facilities in the trailer, and breakfast/dinner meals. They must check out each morning and take their belongings with them. They are permitted to return whenever they need shelter. We will strive to make resources available to them should they desire to pursue recovery/rehabilitation and a permanent housing situation through programs offered locally in the community and those available through The Salvation Army.”
“We’re too small a community to have duplicity of services,” Mr. Nelson said. Over the winter, those services were provided to 5-10 individuals per night. The combined shelters can hold more, COVID requirements restrict occupancy to 50 percent capacity.
“As our Transitional Shelter and community outreach programs continue to grow, I find myself so happy looking at these little rooms,” Shelter Manager Shane Walker said. “Our computer area/meeting space allows guests to meet confidentially with caseworkers to search for jobs, housing and benefits. Our Fellowship Hall saw our first ID clinic with Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration on March 26, and, on March 31, we’ll have our first medical assistance clinic with Dorchester County Health Department-Emergency Preparedness. We’re still growing, and we can’t thank you enough, our amazing community, for coming alongside The Salvation Army Cambridge.” Lt. Parsons said she and her team are excited as the programs develop.
“By making this change immediately, we demonstrate to the community we serve, our commitment to meet the needs of the homeless population. It will also assist us in our future plans to grow the services we provide and the facilities from which to provide them,” she said.