By Danya Turkmani
Last year, as a snowstorm raged and as temperatures dropped below 20 degrees, Sean T. struggled to find a warm place to stay the night in Kansas City, Kansas. He was looking for the cold weather shelter at Bridge of Hope Community Church, but weariness overcame him. He sat down to rest.
“The next thing I knew, I had passed out and the KCK Police department picked me up,” Sean recalled. “They took me to Bridge of Hope and dropped me off.”
Bridge of Hope houses the only shelter in the city that opens specifically on cold weather nights, offering people who are homeless a place to stay warm when temperatures are dangerously low. Founded by two case managers at Frank William’s Housing Resource Center, Amber Holmes and Alex Scott, the shelter is a recent addition to the services available to the homeless population in Kansas City, Kansas.
Amber herself could relate to Sean, as she too had been homeless for five years. She knew firsthand how difficult it is to find a warm place to sleep in the winter. And she knew that many of the homeless people who receive services at Frank Williams, including Sean, often struggled to stay warm.
“Every night when I would go home to my warm house and family, I would think of my clients,” Amber said. “It just didn’t sit right with me thinking about them being out in the cold. I knew I had to do something. I felt compelled to help and called upon by my faith to do so”.
So last year, Amber reached out to Bridge of Hope Community Church, 1925 N. 11th Street, and asked what it would take to use a space there for a cold-weather shelter. The church agreed to partner with her and the shelter opened in November 2016.
Amber and her coworker Alex have become regular volunteers at the shelter, taking turns during the night to serve meals and make sure everything runs smoothly. Located in the church sanctuary, the shelter opens during cold weather months where the temperature drops below 20 degrees. Guests are allowed to take a hot shower, given a change of clothes, and served dinner and breakfast. They also receive clean underwear, socks, hygiene products, coats, hats, and gloves.
Since opening, the shelter has served 33 people. Of those, 27 have entered transitional or permanent housing; 29 have received services at Wyandot Center, Wyandotte County’s community mental health center for adults.
The shelter is funded solely by community donations. Amber and Alex raised the initial $5,000 needed to ensure the shelter and purchase supplies such as beds and blankets.
Sean credits the shelter for saving his life. “If this place didn’t exist, and if it weren’t for the KCK Police Department, I would have frozen to death.” Thanks to Amber, Alex, and other volunteers, hope can now be found where it didn’t exist before.