MOUNT VERNON — The motto of the Winter Sanctuary is “It’s a hand up, not a hand out.” The sanctuary housed in the parish house of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 101 E. High St., is beginning its third year of reaching out a helping hand to the homeless during winter.
According to Sally Parsons of the housing project, it began in 2008 as a shelter for men.
“Our first year was 2008,” she said. “There was a member of the church — Randy Canterbury — who did the yard work outside the church. He noticed evidence that, perhaps, people had been sleeping under the bushes. He was chair of our outreach committee. We learned there was quite a problem with homeless men at that time. So we sent him to a workshop at the diocese where there were people who were already running homeless shelters.”
The group formed to help those homeless men calls itself Winter Sanctuary. It opened its first shelter in December of 2008 with sleeping facilities for six men. The Salvation Army later donated cots.
It was decided to expand the facilities this year to include women and children. The Winter Sanctuary staff was hearing about more and more requests for help with housing from whole families and from women and mothers with children. So it was decided to expand the services. Women and children will be housed in the parish house and men in the basement of the church. The men’s shelter is waiting on an inspection of the basement by the Mount Vernon Fire Department.
“They’ve been very busy with other matters right now,” Parsons said. “And they can’t get to the inspection until Nov. 18. So we will not be able to house any men for those 10 days.”
Parsons said they might be able to find some alternate accommodations until then.
To this point St. Paul’s Episcopal Church has helped in several ways including providing the space for the shelter. But the project wants to become independent.