The shelter manager is Nick Koutsouros. He is responsible for maintaining control and providing general management of the shelter. In addition, Nick spends a fair amount of time working to improve the accommodations and services such as collecting magazines for the recreation room, securing furniture for the outdoor family area, and working to make holidays special for all our guests.
Living in Our Shelter
If you’ve lost your job and exhausted your savings or been caught up in the real estate market collapse, thereby losing the home you’ve had for years, the prospect of living on the street or in your car can be pretty frightening. For young children it can be even more devastating, with the loss of all their daily routines and any semblance of stability. In this kind of situation, it can be at least mildly reassuring to discover that you can secure thirty days of temporary housing at the Saint Vincent de Paul Homeless Shelter.
The purpose of the shelter is to provide temporary housing to homeless families while supporting their search for employment, and eventually, securing a new home or apartment. There are computers available for guests to use to help them seek work and classes are given to improve their skills interviewing and working effectively on the job. The facility has rooms for families and a dorm for single women. To qualify for housing, applicants must pass a drug test. About 40% of those wishing accommodations either fail the test or refuse to take it because of the expectation they will fail. Along with the drug testing, applicants must be willing to abide by the rules for living in the shelter: stay off drugs, not drink in the shelter, observe the daily 7 p.m. curfew and keep their living area orderly and clean. Living in close quarters with strangers can be difficult, so they must also be able to get along. Fighting can be a cause for expulsion.
Another major expectation is for people to be looking for a job or working during the day. For that reason guests must be out of the shelter by 10 am and not return before 4 pm. “Individual initiative and following these rules does pay off,” says Al Zon, President of the shelter conference. “We have a woman currently living in the shelter who got a job at Harry and David’s and has saved every cent of her income, already accumulating over $1000 toward a home when she leaves. A good number of people leave the shelter with jobs and a good start toward a new beginning.”
In certain circumstances the shelter will make special accommodations, for instance, a vet with disabilities currently in the shelter who must have a service dog to protect her against sudden seizures or the elderly woman who needed her son to live with her for help, given her advanced age. There are also no restriction on adult children living with their parents. However, the shelter cannot accept individuals who need assistance but do not have a caregiver living with them.
While some people are initially intimidated by entering the shelter, things soon settle down and they tend to find life there friendly and they like the pleasant and clean environment. Al says, “We probably have one of the nicest shelters most people have ever seen.” Many of the families cook together, share meals and socialize in the evenings in the recreation room. Less than 5% of guests are asked to leave because of drinking, drugs or fighting.
The shelter can provide a necessary and valuable transition vehicle for people suffering serious life stress.