Connect // A night at Simpsons mens shelter

Shiloh wouldn’t give up on me.

He was insistent that I accompany him on the piano, and patiently tried to teach me some jazz chords. All the years of piano lessons I took as a kid didn’t help me as I tried to play with him.

He even went as far as placing my fingers on the piano keys. Eventually, I was able to play a portion of a song he wrote.

That was one of the highlights of a recent night I spent at the men’s shelter at Simpson United Methodist Church, 2740 1st Ave. I shadowed two volunteers for the night.

My duties were pretty basic: I helped pass out hygiene items from a supply room and made sure people who requested to get up earlier than the 6 a.m. wakeup call got up on time. My sleeping shift was midnight to
4 a.m. When I wasn’t working on those tasks, I got to chat with folks and learn more about the ins-and-outs of the shelter from the volunteers I was observing.

Besides getting a crash course on the piano with Shiloh, one of the men staying at the shelter in mid-August, I learned to play rummy. Like the piano, it took me a while to catch on.

The 40-bed shelter is open seven days a week, 6 p.m.–7 a.m. Volunteers manage the shelter in the evening. In a typical year, about 200 people volunteer for an overnight shift, said Eric Johnson, communications and marketing manager.

A variety of community groups come into the shelter in the evening to prepare a meal for the men (any other community member is welcome at the dinner, too).

After dinner on the recent Friday evening I spent at the shelter, the men either watched movies, played games or worked at computer stations. Lights went out at 10 p.m.

Shelter staff from St. Stephen’s, Our Saviour’s and Simpson hold a lottery every Monday night to determine who gets a bed. If chosen, they get the bed for 28 days.

There are several ways to get involved at Simpson.

“We are always looking for overnight volunteers and volunteers to serve meals in the shelters,” Johnson said. “The shelters run almost entirely on volunteers and private donations, so financial donations will go directly to the people we serve.”

Simpson is also in of the following items: men’s and women’s socks, underwear, bras and travel-sized toiletries, razors, towels and pillows.

Get involved: For more information about volunteer opportunities, contact Christina Giese, volunteer services manager at Simpson Housing Services, at [email protected] or 455-0859.