Why a portable homeless shelter? A question that has been asked a number of times and my answer is because it's needed. Truth be told, more is needed for those who are homeless or in need of a safe place to stay but this is what we could do right away. St. Peter's Episcopal Church houses the Westfield Community Kitchen, a non-profit that feeds hot nourishing lunches to any and all who walk in the door Monday through Friday. We have found over time that a number of people from the Westfield community and others who are passing through are in need of more than a warm meal; what do we do for them? Chautauqua County has a number of public assistance services located in Jamestown (about 25 miles away) or in Dunkirk (about 15 miles away) and let's be honest if you have no money or transportation, 15 to 25 miles is a rather large distance to travel. There isn't much offered by the County housed in the communities of Ripley, Brocton or Westfield.
While working to come up with some sort of action plan to help the homeless population in and around our community, we found that there was a parish in Eugene, Ore., the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, that helped their whole community come together to try and address the needs of homeless in their community. They had come up with a Conestoga Hut design that measures 6' x 10' and have a number of them in their parking lot. The city of Eugene calls their homeless housing project "Opportunity Village." Their website is: www.opportunityvillageeugene.org We found that our own small parking lot would not allow us to build that style shelter, however we found yet another design by Paul Elkins that he created as an emergency deployment shelter. Paul has a website: www.elkinsdiy.com where you will find his many creations. We did attempt to use parts of the Conestoga Hut and Paul Welkins' Emergency Shelter. The St. Peter's portable homeless shelter is approx 4' wide x 8' long x 38" high. It is clear that one small portable homeless shelter does not a village make however we are hopeful that the good people of Westfield, Brocton and Ripley will want to become involved with helping to come up with a solution for those in our communities that are having to deal with a very difficult time in their lives.
We hope that this little portable shelter may help in some small way. The cost is in the $300 range so when you think about it if 15 people donated $20 each another shelter could be built. How many of us spend much more than $20 for a quick dinner out? Between the three communities of Ripley, Brocton and Westfield there are about 5,500 people something needs to be done to help the percentage of the before mentioned population that are homeless. Our hope is that something more permanent can be done so those that are in need can be served and become sustainable.
In an effort to combat local homelesness, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church has manufactured a portable homeless shelter. The interior of the shelter is pictured above.