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Enfield warming center won’t house guests overnight | Enfield

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ENFIELD — The Safe Harbor Warming Center opened for the season on Sunday, but for the first time in six years it won’t be housing guests overnight due to limitations caused by COVID-19, Executive Director Monica Wright said.

Last winter, an average of about 10 people stayed at the center each night, Wright said. That included families and individuals.

This year, due to COVID-19, the warming center will instead serve as an outreach center for those without homes.

“We’re still helping the homeless,” Wright said. “But our role will be different this season.”

Wright said that with limited space and volunteers, it would not be possible to operate an overnight facility and ensure people’s safety from the virus. Her organization decided before the season that it would provide different services this year.

“By us cutting our capacity down, it just wouldn’t have been feasible,” Wright said. “We’re grassroots, so we don’t have the big money and big spaces to work with.”

This year, because overnight housing is not part of the plan, the warming center will be operating out of St. Patrick Church at 64 Pearl St., which Wright said is more accessible than the previous location at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church on Hazard Avenue.

“We would rather be in Thompsonville because that’s where the need is,” Wright said. She added that this may become the permanent location if overnight housing can be accommodated.

“Holy Trinity have been good, they’ve always been supportive, but this is a better location for us,” Wright said.

The warming center will be open every Sunday and Wednesday from 6-9 p.m. until March 27. Services include connecting those in need with shelter and other resources such as Enfield Social Services, the local Community Health Center, and Cornerstone Cares, a homeless shelter in Vernon, Wright said.

Bryan Flint, deputy director of Cornerstone, said he was initially dismayed at learning the Safe Harbor Warming Center wouldn’t be open overnight.

Since Safe Harbor opened Sunday, Flint said, several people from Enfield have already been placed with Cornerstone.

“It’s a collaborative effort in the region,” Flint said. “It has to be.”

Wright said that she had more volunteers than she expected to assist on opening day.

Anyone in need can visit the warming center to receive warm beverages, snacks, socks, underwear and other clothing, blankets, and other supplies.

“We want to provide them with anything they need to get them through that hump until they get the services they need,” Wright said.

Wright said that the pandemic has caused added difficulties for the homeless population.

“Times are hard for everybody,” Wright said. “Especially the homeless.”

When the state closed down due to the pandemic, many of the resources homeless people count on weren’t available, she said.

She added that COVID-19 has prompted the state to look at more creative ways to shelter and protect the homeless. Housing them somewhere safe for 24 hours at a time prevents them from being out and about to spread the virus, Wright said.

Flint said that with many warming centers are operating similarly to Safe Harbor, and his organization is overwhelmed.

“Everything has to do with capacity, and it changes day by day,” he said.

Wright said that she was excited to get another season underway, but that more volunteers are still needed to help with setup, sanitizing, distributing supplies, directing guests, and helping with the flow of traffic for people entering and exiting the building.

Monetary donations are also accepted, she added.

While she is still looking forward to this year, Wright said she hopes that this is the only time they have to operate this way.

“Hopefully next year it will be business as usual,” Wright said.

Adam covers the towns of Enfield and Suffield. For more updates, follow Adam on Twitter: @AHushinJI and Facebook: Adam Hushin.



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