As a part of the Emergency Shelter Network, the First Presbyterian Church is one of many faith communities who have committed (for almost three decades) to filling the gap for the thousands of homeless men and women who have nowhere to lay their heads at night. Each year the doors of our church open to provide a safe and warm evening’s rest to ten homeless men from a midtown drop-in center from Monday through Friday. What began as an “emergency” has become a chronic problem, and we retain our commitment to the vulnerable population we have served so faithfully over the years. The guests we serve are carefully screened by the drop-in center and receive professional case management for housing, employment, health, benefits and other needs.
We need lots of volunteer help–unpacking groceries, making beds, serving coffee, staying overnight, and numerous other tasks. Please contact our Shelter Coordinator, Lauren May, at 212-675-6150 to learn more about how our shelter functions, five nights a week, six months a year. The volunteers who have stayed overnight, more than anyone, can attest to the transformative power of such work, and I encourage you to try it–just once!–to see for yourselves.
The Homeless Shelter is a joint operation run by Urban Pathways, the Olivieri Center, and three churches: St. Luke in the Fields, First Presbyterian Church, and Church of the Ascension. The Olivieri Center is a drop-in center near Penn Station that provides food, health care, counseling, and job training to homeless people. Urban Pathways is a non-profit organization that, among its many other services, works as a liaison between drop-in centers and churches and synagogues willing to provide nightly shelter. The shelter is located in the Mellin-Macnab Church House on 12th Street, just west of the corner of Fifth Avenue and 12th Street.
- Overnight volunteers stay from 8:30 PM to 7:00 AM; spend time with guests, help clean-up the evening meal, and serve a light breakfast the next morning.
- Evening Coordinator Duties 8:00PM to 9:30PM; Assist with setting up cots, preparing the evening meal, and welcoming guests as they arrive
Volunteer Information and Scheduling
Frequently Asked Questions
Who are the shelter guests?
Monday night through Friday, homeless men from the Olivieri Center come to our shelter for the night. The men are over eighteen and have been carefully screened for health or behavioral problems before they arrive at the shelter. They have a social worker assigned to them and are participating in a service plan eventually leading to housing placement. Most guests are familiar with the shelter routine.
Is providing beds enough?
No, providing beds is not enough by itself. But the shelter is only one part of the programs run by the Olivieri Center and Urban Pathways, which include job training, medical treatment, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and eventual placement in permanent or transitional housing.
Does the shelter operate all year round?
The shelter runs five nights a week from November to late April.
What would I have to do to volunteer at the shelter?
Overnight volunteers arrive at the shelter, stay overnight, prepare a light breakfast in the morning, and straighten up after the guests have left.
Evening coordinators assist with the evening setup, set up cots and prepare a light snack for the guests.
How long would I have to stay?
Overnight volunteers arrive at 8:30pm and stay until the guests have left for the morning, usually between 6:30-7:00am. Evening coordinators arrive at 8:00pm and stay until dinner is cleaned up, usually until 9:30pm.
Would I stay overnight by myself?
Two volunteers work together each night. The shelter coordinator meets the volunteers when they arrive at the shelter and makes sure everything is in order for the night. The shelter coordinator and evening coordinator do not stay overnight.
Is it safe?
The guests are carefully screened for any health or behavioral problems before they are sent to the shelter. In more than twenty-five years, volunteers have never had any serious problems with guests. The men at the shelter are usually tired when they arrive and looking forward to a night’s rest.
How often would I have to volunteer?
We encourage volunteers to try to make it more than once during the year (once you discover how easy volunteering is, you’ll be glad to sign up!) but there is no requirement.
What should I bring?
Clothes you feel comfortable sleeping in, earplugs if snoring bothers you, a favorite pillow if that will help you sleep, and a willingness to chat with the guests and get to know them a little.
Do I have to be a church member to volunteer?
No, you don’t need to be a member of St. Luke in the Fields, the First Presbyterian Church, or the Church of the Ascension to volunteer. Anyone who is interested is encouraged to sign up or find out more about the shelter.
Do I have to be an overnight volunteer to help with the shelter?
Evening coordinators are also needed, as are donations and food and toiletries.