by the Rev. Steve Snider (Rector 1991-2006)
We began sheltering circa 1994, I think it was, with a group of interdenominational parishes coordinated by an organization called Shepherd’s Place. Sally Griffith, now a parishioner of Holy Trinity Rittenhouse Square, alerted us to the organization and affected the marriage between CHA and Shepherd’s Place. We signed on and a core group of parish volunteers quickly expanded to the numbers you have today. I advocated and Sally was our first coordinator by default! She did a great job. Looking through the 2006 directory, the year I retired from CHA, I count 40+ families or individuals who stepped up to host and prepare bag lunches, drinks, sanitize, etc. Many of them are still helping today. I also remember our earliest volunteers now departed: Win Becker, Sr., Peter Cadwallader, Bonnie Davis, Ray Dyer, Bob & Carole Moore, Vince Raimondo, Harry Sibley, Sandy Smith, Gene Stivers, and I hope for forgiveness for missing anyone else.
Prior to our first year of hosting, we sent flyers around the neighborhood and the result was predictable. Some neighbors called to complain; some anonymously called the township resulting in a surprise inspection, albeit with an apology from the inspector; some called and offered to help. Ultimately, we had many more neighborhood helpers than complainers. After the first couple of years the nay-sayers stopped saying, well, ‘nay’.
When we first began, we were assigned winter months, and thus helped to save many from freezing on the streets. We needed to put a hold on our involvement in 1999 when the parish hall underwent re-construction. When we re-joined the rota for the month of July, which worked well since we had just installed air-conditioning in the parish hall. We have been helping people avoid heat related catastrophes ever since.
At some point in the mid-90’s, Shepherd’s Place ceased to exist and the sheltering operation came under the auspices of Connect-By-Night social services in Upper Darby. Largely, CHA and other parishes hosted the overflow from the permanent shelter located at 63rd & Market in Upper Darby. That shelter was overwhelmed by the first year of its opening. At first our guests – numbering from 25 to 60 people each night – included children, most often with their mothers and sometimes with both parents/partners. In time, the children began to disappear for an assortment of reasons, some of them good.
I am so pleased and give thanks to God that CHA continues in this life-saving outreach. By my count 2018 marks the 24rd year in this sacred endeavor…anyway, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.