St. Matthew's Men's Night Shelter was established in 1984 to prevent homeless men from dying from the elements. Parishioners from neighboring Second Presbyterian Church and St. Paul's Episcopal Church opened the shelter in the undercroft of the Second Presbyterian Church's main buikding as a joint ministry/volunteer activity staffed by members from these two churches. The shelter originally provided up to 17 men nighttime-only emergency shelter during the winter months. The shelter was operated and is now overseen by a Board consisting of members from each church.
The Night Shelter evolved to the point where it now provides a drug-free, stable and structured overnight environment for men who are willing to develop a self-sufficiency plan and work within a rehabilitative program. Given the amount of work required to identify and house selected participants in a healthful setting and to manage funding/expenditure sources, the day-to-day shelter operation was contracted with the Chattanooga Community Kitchen in the late 80's approximately $1,200.00 per month. Now, only those homeless men who are participants in the rehabilitative programs with the Chattanooga Community Kitchen and selected venues are allowed to stay in the shelter.
Presently, the Shelter provides overnight accommodations for between 100 and 240 bed nights per month for homeless men. In 2003, a total of 82% participated (in 2002, 75 men participated). The men are admitted to the shelter by 6:00 PM and must leave by 6:30 AM. In addition to providing beds, small lockers/under-bed storage for personal items and communal bathroom facilities, the shelter now provides laundry, kitchen and dining/television/"living room" like facilities. There are ten beds for Shelter residents (including one hospital-type bed and a sleeping room for the nightly volunteer.
In fall of 2002 a room was created for a Brotherhood of St. Gregory Episcopal monk postulate, Ron Fender. A former theater person/artist and inspirational public speaker, Ron determined a new ministry for himself using his interest in power of the arts to heal and transform people. Ron works with the homeless in the community during the day (as a roving case manager under trhe auspices of the Chattanooga Community Kitchen) and lives at the Shelter. He spends his nights providing spirtual and emotional support for the residents. He also serves to enforce the rules of the Shelter (with the volunteer) and oversees the use of the stoves in the kitchen. Since his participation, the stove and laundry facilities were upgraded, the volunteer room improved, and changes in the ambiance (paint, bedspreads and other donated furnishings) have fostered a more home-like atmosphere.
"For I was hungered,
and ye gave me meat;
I was thirsty,
and ye gave me drink;
I was a stranger,
and ye took me in."