Submitted by Vanessa Checo, Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless

Our Operation Warm Heart program provides short term shelter at participating church and organization locations scattered throughout Elizabeth, Linden, Cranford, and Rahway for homeless persons who are ineligible for shelter from County Social services. The program operates from December 1 to March 31, and shelters run generally 6 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Additional overnight volunteers are needed to assist site coordinators on specific nights preferably one night a week or bi weekly. Volunteers are given basic training and primarily check in the guests for the night, direct them regarding the facilities and where to set up their cots, and occasionally assist with serving dinner. Most importantly they provide hospitality, oversight, and company to the guests for the night. Guests generally sleep from 11PM to 6AM and most volunteers work out shifts as needed. Cots, blankets, food, and transport are provided by the site or the program.
Persons to be sheltered are prescreened and provided ongoing case management and support services in order to find alternate transitional or long term housing or placement as appropriate, and as soon as possible. The program is not intended as a place for a person to shelter for the 4 months of the season. Generally, we shelter up to 14 persons, more under Code Blue circumstances. Names of those prescreened are provided to the site volunteers in advance. An agency staff person is available by phone at all times.
In summary, volunteers provided a welcome human affirmation for our guests and find the experience very rewarding.
To volunteer or for additional questions pease contact me. Vanessa Checo, Operation Warm Heart- Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless, 118 Division St. Elizabeth, NJ 07201, 908-355-2060, vcheco@theelizabethcoalition.org.