As the temperatures continue to drop, a Shelton homeless shelter and food pantry looks to save lives through its annual No-Freeze program.
The Spooner House food pantry distributes food to hundreds of families in need every month, but with winter steadily approaching, its staff’s focus is now juggled between collecting food and making sure that those without a home have a safe, warm space to rest each night.
“Our main goal is to keep people safe and alive,” said Susan Agamy, executive director of Spooner House.
Each day the shelter’s No-Freeze program opens its doors at 9 p.m. and provides dinner and breakfast before the participants leave at 6 a.m. Agamy explained that the 6 a.m. leaving time for those involved with the program can fluctuate depending on weather conditions.
“There’s some fluctuation based on weather conditions, all done with the purpose of keeping people safe and alive,” said Agamy.
The program, which began this year on Nov. 15, continues every night, no matter the weather, until March 31. The No-Freeze program users are in addition to the people the Spooner House regularly houses. The regular shelter has a total of 36 beds and can shelter a total of 42 people. Those taking advantage of the No-Freeze program are sheltered separately from the shelter’s regular housing.
“The regular population stays on the third floor,” said Agamy. “We have a family with minors that may come in as a part of No-Freeze, but we put them in a separate room from the single adults and get them connected to a place that can offer regular shelter very quickly, because there’s minors involved.”
In order to be considered for housing at the Spooner House, Agamy said, those interested must arrive sober. If interested in the No-Freeze program, applicants must also be sober and are required to receive a police escort if arriving after 10:30 p.m.
“Typically, if people need a place to stay, they need it right from 9 p.m.,” said Agamy before explaining that the shelter staff also locks its clients’ belongings in a shed before they can enter. “If the person is quite intoxicated or belligerent, we will call the police or paramedics. It’s just to avoid any issues and to protect everyone”
Despite having a space cap of 10 people for the No-Freeze program, Agamy said, the shelter staff does what it needs to do to assure people’s safety.
“We say 10 people each night for the No-Freeze program, but we won’t turn people away,” said Agamy. “When we don’t have cots or sleeping bags, we will always set up some blankets, as we don’t want to send people away, because we want to keep them alive.”
The job of the Spooner House staff doesn’t end with finding people temporary shelter, according to Agamy.
“We also assist people by calling 211 to get them access to permanent housing resources,” said Agamy. “Some folks don’t want that, and only want the overnight, and we respect that. They can continue to take advantage of our No-Freeze program every night. It’s not mandatory for them to sign up with one of our other, more permanent programs.”
Agamy said, the Spooner House is always collecting hats and scarves, but not coats. The items collected are distributed to regular clients, No-Freeze users and food pantry users as well.
All donations may be dropped off at the Spooner House shelter, located at 30 Todd Road in Shelton.