Parishioners at First United Methodist Church will vote Sunday whether to host homeless Lawrence residents not served by the Salvation Army Shelter.
"We're committed to being a church in ministry downtown," the Rev. H. Sharon Howell said Monday.
If the vote succeeds, the church at 946 Vt. will open itself to use two nights a week by Lawrence Open Shelter. That organization wants to provide a "wet" shelter, one that will accept homeless people even if they are intoxicated. The Salvation Army, which operates a wintertime shelter at 946 N.H., prohibits drunken individuals from entering.
Lawrence Open Shelter is operating a temporary wet or open shelter in the gymnasium of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1229 Vt., but that will close Wednesday when school resumes there.
Saunny Scott, founder of Lawrence Open Shelter, said St. John has agreed to continue providing shelter two nights a week on weekends, when students do not come to school the following mornings. If First United Methodist approves the proposal Sunday, that will leave three nights a week with no open shelter.
Scott said the prospect of multiple churches providing shelter, while better than nothing, does raise a concern.
"It's difficult for an organization to hop from place to place," she said. "We're concerned people will have a hard time finding us."
Howell said downtown churches are increasingly looking at cooperating on services to the poor and homeless.
Jubilee Cafe, a free breakfast kitchen, will move in mid-January from Trinity Episcopal to First United Methodist, which has more room for guests.
But there's only so much the churches can do, Howell said. On Sunday, her parishioners will also vote on a resolution urging the city to provide shelter instead of letting other organizations handle the chore "piecemeal."
"We're not a building built for overnight dormitory," Howell said. "It's a real challenge to find any usable space."
The meeting will take place around noon Sunday, after the church's third Sunday service.