Disaster strikes your community, and your church wants to help. You have a large, easily accessible building, and people need somewhere safe to go. Opening up your building as a disaster shelter is a great option, but it’s not as simple as opening your doors and inviting people in. Sheltering requires planning and cooperation with outside organizations to do it well.
American Red Cross is one organization that often partners with churches in post-disaster sheltering situations. It’s also helpful to develop relationships with your local emergency management organizations, who will be important contacts when disaster strikes.
Research shows that churches are often the first place people turn in the event of a disaster or emergency—even if they’re not a member, or even religious. People know that a church is a place where they can find shelter, safety, and care, from people who are local to their community and who will be there long after the initial relief phase is over. Sheltering is a tangible, powerful way for churches to demonstrate their love for their neighbors.
The logistics of sheltering may feel overwhelming, but partnering with local organizations can help alleviate that burden by allowing churches to do what they do best while leaving the specialized details to experts. According to Curt Luthye, Regional Volunteer Services Officer at Red Cross at the American Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties, “While a church offers its space, and sometimes its staff and volunteers, the Red Cross can provide resources to the shelter, such as cots, blankets and necessary food as well as a commitment to restock any items used by clients.” This arrangement can improve the impact of both organizations’ efforts. “This allows the church to serve its community while being supported by Red Cross resources and sheltering expertise,” says Luthye.