4-3-19 Way Station

Pastor Nathan Hall of the Lutheran Church of the Nativity in North Conway and the Rev. Gail Doktor, minister of the Jackson Community Church, chat in front of shelves full of sleeping bags at the Way Station at the Lutheran Church last month. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

CONWAY — The Way Station is expanding at the Lutheran Church of the Nativity in North Conway. Already open on a part-time, by prior arrangement schedule, the Way Station provides a valuable day resource center for homeless people, those with challenges of fuel, washing facilities, internet access and basic personal care resources.

To move forward with plans to open for a regular schedule throughout the week, a series of volunteer trainings will be held Sunday, May 5, and again on May 19.

Lutheran Church Pastor Nathan Hall and Jackson Community Church’s the Rev. Gail Doktor, working through a separate outreach project of the Vaughan Community Center, will maintain an independent budget, and fiscal autonomy while benefiting from the Vaughan’s 501(c)(3) legal status, as the Way Station shifts to become more of an everyday facility.

The Way Station’s space in the back of the Lutheran Church is comprised of one large room with a washer/dryer, refrigerator and sink, television, couches, tables and chairs.

A smaller room is equipped with computers and a private quiet space. On counters and storage cubbies, a wide range of supplies is available, from basic toiletries like toothpaste, soap and washcloths, to a variety of clothing items, sleeping bags and tents.

Way Station can provide a legal mailing address for displaced persons to establish residency, provide for job applications and list on government aid forms.

Hall and Doktor have been two leaders from valley churches and faith communities who have been taking the lead in reaching out to some of the area’s least fortunate citizens who are battling extreme poverty, homelessness or simply periods of bad luck, like the loss of electricity at home.

“There are waves of need; sometimes it is cyclical, and other times totally random,” Hall said. “Frequently (Way Station users) will camp out for the summer to survive, and save money to winter in a motel.”

Doktor notes that beginning as a day center is a first step in supporting those in need. She believes that an overnight shelter would need to build trust between the shelter, its workers and those who might use it.

Up until now, access to use Way Station has been sporadic. Hall and Doktor frequently open the doors, and they have developed and trained some key assistants who are preparing to manage the Way Station.

With several volunteers having expressed interest, Hall and Doktor are hopeful of 10-12 more volunteers to join the training sessions of May 5 and 19.

According to Way Station literature, volunteers will “learn about best practices and safety procedures” and “gain insight into the population we’re serving, by learning about issues surrounding homelessness and housing insecurity.”

The May 5 session, from 2-3 p.m., will be led by Jeff Jones, emergency preparedness officer for Carroll County, United Way.

The May 19 session will run from 2-5 p.m., assisted by N.H. Listens facilitators from Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire.

According to Hall and Doctor, “Additional training sessions will be scheduled. We will make the curriculum developed for these first two sessions available for volunteers who cannot make the first training dates. Training will be mandatory to working with guests.”

Register for training workshops by email to: waystationnh@gmail.com.

Volunteers who work with guests must be 18 years of age and complete a background check that the Way Station will pay for.  Volunteers under age 18 are wanted to work at times when guests are not present, in positions of leadership, advisory, pack and prep of “Boxes of Love,” toiletry and emergency supply kits or help with communication initiatives.

For more information contact the the Rev. Nathan Hall at the Lutheran Church of the Nativity at (603) 356-7827 or the Rev. Gail Doctor at the  Jackson Community Church at (603) 383-6187.

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