Abraham's Tent offers fulfilling experience for men who are homeless

by Kristen Provost Switzer, 2014-2015 Abraham's Tent Coordinator


Abraham's Tent is an emergency housing program at Columbus House, grown out of the need for more beds when funding was cut to the shelter six years ago. In those six years, Abraham's Tent has grown into more than just an emergency housing solution; it has grown into a community of volunteers, committed to solving the issues of poverty and homelessness.

Each Fall, faith communities in and around New Haven begin planning for another season of "Abe's Tent." They begin recruiting volunteers, reconfiguring the space in their buildings, and of course, planning the menus. Each congregation has one or two core volunteers, or "Volunteer Coordinators," who are charged with virtually all of the planning. In turn, they guide volunteers from their sites in helping with meals, activities, or even just socializing with the guests during their stay.

To say that there is a lot of work that goes into these week-long stays is an understatement. And yet, we see that year after year, congregations willingly give of their time and their resources. Why is that? We hear countless testimonies of what a fulfilling experience Abe's Tent is for volunteers. This is partly because the guests are so special- this year, we had a singer, an artist, a veteran, a poet and others who were just as unique. By the end of the week, it is clear that the volunteers and guests feel like family, a feeling that won't be forgotten any time soon.

As the Abraham's Tent Coordinator, I was left with a bittersweet feeling at the end of our season. While it is wonderful to see the guests move into housing and obtain employment, there is something to be missed at the end of the program. That "something" is community- one whose sole purpose is just to act in a loving way toward everyone, without judgement or prejudice. Abe's Tent is a wonderful program that has had a profound effect on my own life; I invite you to check it out for yourself next year!

Contact our Volunteer Coordinator at sdimario@columbushouse.org or (203) 401-4400 x 138 if you are interested in getting involved.

Abraham's Tent Program Overview:

Who: The program houses up to 12 men at a time. They are housed at different faith communities in and around New Haven. This year, we had a total of 28 faith communities and para-religious organizations working with our program, with an estimate of over 600 volunteers!

What: The men stayed at each congregation for a week. While in the program, many of them used their time during the day to work, apply for jobs and housing, meet with case managers and enroll in different employment and career-skills programs.

Where: The synagogues and churches were located in a wide range of towns and cities, such as New Haven, Hamden, Branford, North Haven, Cheshire, Guilford, Woodbridge and West Haven.

When: The program, which lasts the duration of the Winter, began on December 2nd, 2014 and ended on March 12th, 2015. This year, it was 19 weeks total.

Why: Because the need is great! The truth is, homelessness and poverty affects the places where each one of us lives.

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