Indiana Daily Student

Beacon’s Shalom Center preps for accommodating the unhoused community in winter

<p>Volunteers worked to clean and organize Friend&#x27;s Place&#x27;s overnight shelter on Volunteer Day in late October. Beacon’s Shalom Center encourages the community to volunteer in preparation for the winter season.</p>

Volunteers worked to clean and organize Friend's Place's overnight shelter on Volunteer Day in late October. Beacon’s Shalom Center encourages the community to volunteer in preparation for the winter season.

Beacon Inc.’s Shalom Center encourages the community to volunteer in preparation for the winter season, and so the staff can adapt to the pandemic aftermath.

The Shalom Center is a day shelter, located on 620 S. Walnut St., that has three programs: Phil’s Kitchen, rapid re-housing and street outreach. The overnight shelter is called Friend’s Place and Beacon also offers another temporary housing option called Crawford Homes. 

“The Beacon organization is dedicated to tackling the issue of homeless in our community,” Beacon volunteer coordinator Novella Shuck said. 

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The pandemic greatly affected their daily operations, she said, and the transition required a lot of reassigning and adding responsibilities to job descriptions for both employees and volunteers at the Shalom Center. 

Shuck said she’s cautious of what the pandemic, flu and winter season can do to the volunteer turnout. When volunteers go on holidays, she said she tries to fill as many positions as possible and adapt to schedule changes. 

“If students are staying in town and want to give back by volunteering a shift, especially to make up for some of our regulars who are out of town, I would love to coordinate something with them,” Shuck said.

In March 2020, Shuck said the Shalom staff went from having 105 regular volunteers to only nine volunteers. 

“Everyone who volunteers here is trying to do the right thing,” Shuck said. “When the pandemic hit, everyone was told that the right thing to do is to stay home and to not see people, so agencies like ours that offer direct services and depend on the community to help, had to adapt.”

For those who can’t volunteer, they can drop off donation items any time between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. everyday at 620 S. Walnut St. There is a general list for needed donations, but with the winter approaching, the staff asks for more blankets, gloves and antiseptics.

“Our Shalom Center volunteers are the very best,” Shuck said. “They’re patient, they’re open, they’re great.”

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Volunteers and staff screened guests’ temperatures and asked about their health conditions throughout the pandemic. At a time, Shalom served meals outside and opened the center to a limited number of people at time. 

Shuck said the Shalom staff no longer limits access to the center, but depending on the winter and pandemic, they might have to change protocol organization wide. 

“It has taken us a very long time to rebuild to pre-pandemic levels of volunteering,” Shuck said. 

Shuck said she attributes the large volunteer turnout with how people became more comfortable being in public spaces despite the ongoing pandemic.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have our IU students back,” Shuck said.

Shalom requires volunteering shifts be at least 2 hours long between 7:30 a.m. and  4 p.m. Monday through Friday. If the volunteer is planning on doing it only once, they can contact Shuck about a shift at Phil’s Kitchen, either for breakfast or lunch prep and clean up. Those interested in long term volunteer opportunities can email Shuck and expect a volunteer orientation appointment and a guide. 

Weekly volunteer opportunities will most likely be at the hospitality desk where volunteers assist guests with their mail, general inquiries and other Shalom services like laundry and shower scheduling.

Shuck said she was excited about December since more volunteering opportunities will be available. Shalom’s page on the Bloomington Volunteer Network provides more information about these events.

“Volunteering is such a rewarding thing that students can do,” Shuck said. “The beginning of a new semester is always a great time to start something new with different people.”

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