DANBURY, Conn. — Two volunteers: That’s all that’s needed to host about 25 homeless people each night at the Dorothy Day overflow shelter at the First Congregational Church in Danbury.
And Redding resident Peggy Zamore is making it her mission to spread the word about this essential need in the community.
The overflow shelter is open seven days a week from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. in winter through mid-April.
Zamore, coordinator of the shelter, said the need for the overflow shelter came about 20 years ago when the two existing homeless shelters in Danbury were filled to capacity.
"People were being turned away into the cold,” she said.
The shelter is run entirely by volunteers, who sleep on cots inside the gym of the church, alongside the guests. It's open to both men and women.
“Nobody is turned away, and there is no limit for the number of days that you can stay,” Zamore said. “We take their word for it that if they show up, then they need to be there."
Zamore has accumulated a list of volunteers, but "we are always looking for more people," she said. The shelter needs two volunteers each night to handle any potential problems.
"Sometimes, guests have medical problems, and volunteers may need to call 911. There are also people who might have behavior and mental health issues," she said. "We are the point person to call for help."
The shelter helps more than just the guests, she said. It also helps the community.
“In a community where people are taken care of, that community can thrive. If people are not out on the streets overnight, they tend to be calmer and will be less likely to create any disturbances, so the police will be utilized less," Zamore said.
Many of the guests at the shelter go to jobs during the day and can perform better at work if they're not out in the cold all night, she said.
"Being warm at night also keeps people healthier. If they are inside in the winter months, they’re probably not going to get as sick as often and their chances of needing medical care would be reduced."
After volunteering at the shelter overnight, Zamore feels like she has made an important contribution.
"There is no price you can put on this," she said. “Many volunteers have good resources for themselves and do this as their way of giving back.”
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