Lockport CARES helps those in need
The not-for-profit organization began after a group of pastors from area churches started meeting in 2007, to discuss what to do with the people in the community that have no place to stay.
The group came up with the idea to start a homeless shelter.
The emergency homeless shelter first opened its doors on Genesee Street in November 2009. Shelter Director Martha Nagy said the 192 Genesee St. location was donated and it took a year and a half to rehab it. The home now has room for 12 people in need, and is open to men, women and families with children. There is also a handicap accessible room.
Lockport CARES stands for Community Action Response Emergency Shelter. The emergency shelter welcomes people who qualify, for a period of 10 days. Those staying at the shelter receive three meals a day.
“Our mission is to supply them with shelter and food,” said Nagy.
She said they also have clothes available in emergency situations.
Those wishing to stay at the shelter must first call the hotline at 939-0926. They are then given a phone interview to see if they qualify. If they are approved and a bed is available, that person is directed to the shelter, where they go through the admission process.
Nagy said the homeless shelter is a drug-free, alcohol-free and violence-free shelter. No alcohol or drugs are allowed on the premises, along with violence not being tolerated. They have very “strict rules” and those in violation are asked to leave.
People staying at the shelter must be out of the house from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekends. Nagy said during weekdays people are expected to be out looking for employment, looking for an apartment, visiting social services or seeking unemployment.
“We’re the only homeless shelter in Eastern Niagara County,” said Nagy.
The shelter has also grown in popularity. Nagy said more and more people are learning about the shelter, meaning more and more people are seeking help. She said in January, February and March alone, they have already helped 64 people, which is one-third of the total people they helped in 2011.
Lockport CARES is a faith-based shelter. Nagy said “this is a ministry for God.” Not one person can take ownership of the shelter, she said, because it is “God’s house” and the “glory” is for him.
Approximately 20 churches, all of different denominations, organize the shelter.
“We’re all working together for one goal,” she said. “And we’re pulling in human service organizations in Lockport. It’s really unique in that nature.”
She said they work closely with other human service organizations, such as St. John’s Outreach and the Salvation Army.
“We try to link up with the services already in Lockport, to benefit the people that come here,” said Nagy.
Lockport CARES has the mission, “Through Christ we change despair into hope.” Nagy said this came from the expression many people have when they first come to the shelter for help. She said people are in despair and have a heavy heart. Within a couple days, she said that goes away.
“We try to give them some hope,” said Nagy.
The next step for Lockport CARES will be the creation of a transitional home for men. They are currently looking for a structure for the home. Nagy said it would be home to faith-based men who are looking to change their life around.
“It’s for those who express a hard change and are willing to follow the Lord,” she said.
Approximately 75 volunteers staff the emergency shelter, but more are always needed, said Nagy.
She said the current volunteers complete various jobs for the shelter, but many volunteer to staff the shelter. She said there is a 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. shift, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. shift, a 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift and an overnight shift.
As the shelter grows, more types of volunteers are needed. She is currently looking for volunteers willing to do data entry, filing, answering phone calls when the shelter is closed, help with fundraising, maintenance, cleaning and to help with the construction of the new structure when they get it. They also always need people to staff the house.
“We’re always looking for volunteers with a heart to want to help the homeless,” said Nagy.
Those interested in volunteering can call the shelter at 438-2273. Nagy encourages anyone interested in volunteering to shadow a shift to see what it is like.
Because the shelter is sustained through donations from the community, businesses and individuals, any help they can get is appreciated.
“A lot of different groups in the community, they get together to help us,” said Nagy.
Nagy said they are always in need of paper products, coffee and coffee creamer that is storable, sugar, drink mixes and personal hygiene products.
Those interested in donating items can call the shelter at 438-2273 or send a monetary donation to P.O. Box 586, Lockport, NY 14095.
A number of events will take place throughout the summer to raise funds and awareness for Lockport CARES. The next event will take place from noon to 4 p.m. May 6, at the Christ Episcopal Church in Lockport. The Spaghetti Dinner will include spaghetti, sauce, meatball, salad, bread, butter, beverage and dessert. The cost is $7 in advance for adults and $3 in advance for children. Cost at the door is $8 for adults and $4 for children. For ticket information contact the parish hall at 433-9229.