ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — One Rockford church has opened its doors to the city’s most vulnerable population as temperatures drop below zero.
Second First Church provides dinner and a warm place to stay for the night. They opened their “Overnight Cafe” early on Monday with the freezing cold, and they did the same on Tuesday.
With the increase in people, they are also looking for help.
“People are safe here, so our goal is to keep them safe and sheltered and give them a meal,” said Karen Hill, a mission ministry team member at Second First Church.
This is a difficult time of year for the city’s homeless population, but the church’s “Overnight Cafe” gives anyone who is homeless a warm place to sleep for the night every winter.
Hill is one of the volunteers who works hard to create a safe space.
“It’s Rockford people,” she said. “Other years we’ve done this, it’s been people coming into the community from somewhere else, on their way to somewhere else. But this year, our guests have been Rockford natives.”
The church was originally restricted to 35 guests due to limited space. They hosted 47 people on Monday night.
The people who come and stay check-in, get a mat to sleep on, a bedroll with two blankets and dinner.
“Once they have dinner, they usually settle down really fast and pass out. It’s quiet,” Hill said. “The nights I volunteered, it’s amazing how quiet it is, but people are just tired from being out in the elements and are glad to finally get warm.”
There is a grab-and-go breakfast in the morning. “Overnight Cafe” is supplied by donations, and there is one specific item that they are in need of.
“We’re looking for a source for some mats. These had been used for packing materials and the source we got them from, they’re no longer using- they’re using peanuts, foam peanuts. They don’t work,” Hill said. “So, if there’s someone in the community that has access to this high-density foam.”
Staff are also looking for help with meals. Volunteers sign up to bring in food like mac and cheese, hot dogs and brownies.
“It’s simple meals, but it’s definitely welcomed and appreciated by the folks that come in,” Hill said.
The cafe’s last day is March 5. Those that would like to volunteer or donate should contact Second First Church.