The timing is tight, but services for the homeless on Trinity Avenue will continue, says the rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
"I have a personal commitment to continuing serving the Fresh Start participants as do many of our church members," wrote the Rev. Sylvia Vasquez in an email, adding that a formal decision had not yet been made.
Vasquez was responding to the news earlier this week that Fresh Start, a respite and service center for homeless people housed in St. Paul's Fellowship House for a dozen years, would close. In a letter to donors, Fresh Start's uncompensated administrative staff — Bill Lunghi and his wife Robin Lunghi — said they would "re-retire" as of Oct. 30.
The church plans to continue the program under the name of Trinity Center. "The Vestry (our governing board) had a great discussion at our September meeting and will take a formal vote at our October meeting (Oct. 9)," said Vasquez. "In the meantime, our Faith in Action committee chair has been busily organizing a coalition of people, churches, and agencies that have shown an interest in continuing to serve this population."
She added, "Our parish sees helping the homeless as part of our mission. Our motto is 'Deep Roots, Growing Community, Living Faith;' as such, we are compelled to 'live' our faith by seeing to the needs of the poorest among us."
Fresh Start, staffed by volunteers including homeless people, is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, offering a living room atmosphere, showers, laundry, a food pantry, financial support and motel vouchers.
St. Paul's is scrambling to find seed money, a core of volunteers and a board to run Trinity Center. "The suddenness of Bill's decision to close Fresh Start has made it difficult (albeit, not impossible) for us to step in," Vasquez said.
Vasquez says anyone wishing to contribute to the new organization may still take a tax deduction by making their check to St. Paul's with Trinity Center in the memo line.