Gloucester United Emergency Shelter Team (GUEST) is a faith-based 501c3 nonprofit organization, that provides 24 hour sheltering services each winter. We serve residents of the 10 counties of the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck and are the only shelter provider in the area for men, women, and families with children. The GUEST Day Shelter & Resource Center continues to be open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for housing resources, laundry and shower facilities, and meals.
GUEST is entering the 2020-2021 Winter Shelter Season in a new and challenging way of sheltering the homeless. Due to COVID-19, the Winter Shelter Season will look very different from years past. We want to shelter and minister to people in the church setting, but COVID-19 makes it challenging to keep everyone safe and healthy in a communal setting. In order to protect the health of the homeless, volunteers, and staff, GUEST will be utilizing the Motel Voucher Program which provides shelter at local motels throughout the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck. While this year will look different, GUEST would still like to extend several opportunities to continue to support its ministry of helping the homeless.
First, GUEST is in need of financial donations to support the ongoing efforts of the Motel Voucher Program. GUEST has received a COVID Homelessness Emergency Response Program Grant from Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development to cover much of the cost of the motels. However, this grant requires that GUEST pay for the motels up front and submit the receipts for reimbursement on a monthly basis. GUEST must have the cash upfront in order to make this program successful. GUEST has always had a minimal operating budget, so we need the community’s help to raise $40,000 by December 10 to increase our cash flow. These funds will ensure we can keep approximately 50 people each week in the Motel Voucher Program from December 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Donations can be made online www.guestshelter.org/donate or mailed to GUEST, PO Box 1544, Gloucester, VA 23061.
Secondly, GUEST would like to ask the community of volunteers to help with providing meals this winter. Meals should be prepared in to-go containers for approximately 30-40 people and delivered to the day shelter, so there is minimal risk of COVID exposure. GUEST staff would then deliver the meals to the appropriate motel locations. If to-go containers are not available, GUEST is able to separate the food on site, just be sure to bring the meals in disposable trays. Signup Genius will be used to coordinate meal drop-offs and can be found at www.guestshelter.org/volunteer.
Lastly, donations from the GUEST Amazon Wishlist can help provide non-perishable and microwavable foods for motel voucher participants. Due to limited refrigeration and space in each motel room, GUEST has been providing non-perishable, pop-top, and microwavable food items for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. We have set up an Amazon Wishlist with many items that will support the people we serve. You can access the wishlist HERE.
You can also make a portion of your holiday shopping sales come back to our community and to GUEST by using Amazon Smile. Amazon Smile donates to GUEST when you shop online at https://smile.amazon.com/ch/47-2439560.
We thank you for your continued support of sheltering and helping the homeless.
Rev. Kristie Askew