Event marks Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Fri., Nov. 22, 2013
Steve Poudrettesen (left) and Chris Gilbran perform with 'Brovenors' at a National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness event at the Windham No Freeze Shelter on Nov. 16. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Steve Poudrettesen (left) and Chris Gilbran perform with 'Brovenors' at a National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness event at the Windham No Freeze Shelter on Nov. 16. Photos by Melanie Savage.

The doors of the Windham No Freeze Shelter were blocked open the afternoon of Nov. 16. It was sunny and balmy outside, and the open doors admitted soft breezes. They also served to welcome the public inside, which was one of the major goals of the Homelessness and Hunger Awareness event organized by Eastern Connecticut State University student Ann Scafidi.

National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week was observed Nov. 16 through 24 this year. “So we did this today hoping to draw awareness to the cause,” said Scafidi. The event, dubbed “Bringing a Heart to the Homeless,” sought to collect coats, hats, mittens, socks and other warm clothing items for distribution at the shelter. There were several local bands scheduled to play, and an open mic session was expected to draw shelter clients to perform.

Scafidi was required to organize an event for a sociology class. “And I thought this would be an awesome cause,” she said. The university helped by printing posters and fliers. Several other Eastern students accompanied Scafidi to help facilitate the event. “And everybody’s been contacting as many people as possible,” she said, adding that fellow students had been spreading the word via Twitter and other social media avenues.

On Saturday afternoons, there are no local warm spaces where the homeless can go to get out of the elements, according to No Freeze Director Leigh Duffy. “So if it were really cold right now, there’d be no place for a lot of people to be,” she said. Events such as “Bringing a Heart to the Homeless” serve as a way to both provide warm shelter, and to help forge a relationship between the shelter and the rest of the community. “We’re trying to plan more of these weekend events,” said Duffy, adding that there was a health and wellness fair planned for the near future.

The Windham No Freeze Hospitality Center is a community coalition founded in 2003 by individuals dedicated to making sure literally that no one is left out in the cold. The facility provides basic overnight shelter from cold weather for homeless persons over the age of 18 from Nov. 15 through April of each year. “No one is turned away,” reads the shelter’s website. “All we ask is that our guests respect the volunteers and each other.” According to the website, the shelter also strives “to address unmet needs including food, clothing, hygiene, case management, emergency and transport funding,” and to “facilitate regional community and social service agency collaboration to these ends.”

Windham No Freeze is always in need of mittens, gloves, socks, hats, coats and other warm clothing. The shelter is also in need of other items, such as hygiene products (razors, toothbrushes, deodorant), cleaning supplies (floor and bathroom cleaner, laundry soap), other clothing (sweat pants, sweat shirts) and office supplies. For a complete “wish list,” see the shelter’s website at www.nofreeze.org. The website also provides an address for making cash donations. Goods can be dropped off directly at the shelter, at 1110 Main St., Willimantic. The best times for drop-off are between 1 and 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

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