What is the St. Paul’s Men’s Shelter?
The men’s shelter is one of many programs operated by the St. Paul’s Community Development Corporation (CDC) which was established in 1990 as the outreach arm of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The CDC annually provides services to thousands of low-income people, with the help of over 300 volunteers and 40 congregations. Its mission is to “alleviate the pervasive conditions of homelessness, unemployment, poverty and illiteracy in the City of Paterson.”
The shelter is not simply a “soup kitchen” but a program designed to help men become productive members of society. All residents of the shelter must spend their days going to programs or services that address any issues that may be hindering their moving on to more independent living. Those issues include such things as literacy, language, job skills/employability, drug and alcohol addiction, mental health and immigration. The focus of the program is to assist the men in taking control of their lives--to help them realize that they really do have some hope and they can have some impact on their future.
What is St. John's involvement with St. Paul’s?
Since the inception of the CDC, St. John’s has joined many other parishes by committing to provide an evening meal one night a month. Parishioners sign up to provide individual parts of a menu and/or volunteer to transport and serve the meal to the men.
When do you go?
We meet at St. John’s around 5:30 pm on the second Friday on every month. The drive is about 25 minutes, and we are usually back by 7:30.
How many people need to go?
2-4 works well. More than 4 is ok but can get a little crowded.
If I can’t be there at 5:30, how can I drop off the food that I provide?
Food may be left in St. John’s kitchen and refrigerator during Parish Office hours on Friday. Items may also be left on the Rectory porch later in the afternoon (after 4:00 or so). We can also usually arrange to pick up from your home on our way to Paterson (we go via Valley Road). Eric Osbun will touch base with you a few days prior to coordinate with you.
What do you take?
We take a hot meat entrée, vegeterian dish, salad, potatoes or pasta, rolls and butter and dessert for the evening meal. We also take milk for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch the next day.
Does the food need to be hot?
The warmer the food is when we depart St. John’s, the faster the men can eat. There is a commercial oven in the shelter’s kitchen which we use to heat up the food as necessary while we are tossing salad, cutting pies, pulling out plates, etc.
What do the men like to eat?
Almost everything! Successful hot entrées include roasted, baked or fried chicken, meat loaf, chili, ham, and meat lasagna. (Ham is ok but an alternative meat should also be provided because some men avoid pork). Potatoes, roasted or mashed, are favorite accompaniments, as are macaroni and cheese and vegetable lasagnas. Some men are vegetarian, so we also try to provide a vegetarian dish, but in a smaller quantity. Salads with a variety of greens and vegetables as well as bean salads are great, too. We would like to introduce a vegetarian dish to the menu, and provide fresh vegetables and whole grain products as much as possible. Sandwiches should be cold cuts, with no lettuce or condiments, on whole grain bread, individually bagged. Desserts range from homemade cookies and brownies to sheet cakes from Costco.
How many men are there?
We have served as many as 30-35 in the past but lately it is generally 20-25. We tend to see fewer in the summer with numbers increasing as it gets colder. The winter of 2012-2013 was an exception- we usually fed less then 20 each month. This was apparently not due to a lack of need, but rather so many men did not meet the criteria required by the program.
What kind of quantities is required?
Plan on 1½ - 2 portions per person. For example, this roughly translates to 35-45 pieces of chicken, maybe 3-4 heads of lettuce, 12-20 pounds of potatoes, 2-3 large trays of lasagna, 3-4 dozen dinner rolls, 1-2 gallons of milk. 30-40 sandwiches, 3-5 pies. I will inform you how many men we will be feeding.
May kids come to serve?
Yes, indeed! It is a valuable introduction to community service for those about age 5 older. All the children that have served with us display a remarkable responsibility toward the tasks they are asked to perform, oh… and so do their parents! It is a great family project.
Is the shelter “scary” or “depressing”?
No one has ever actually come out and asked me this question, but I imagine some people have wondered. The facility is clean and bright, and the environment is very friendly. The men and staff are always courteous, helpful, and very appreciative.
Can I send clothes to the shelter?
Yes. Clean, lightly used clothing for men, women and children would be appreciated. Please contact me directly or leave me a note on the sign up sheet.
How do I sign up or get more information?
Click here to access a Google Sheets online signup.