Overnight café opens early to help Rockford’s homeless in cold weather

Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 10:26 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - For people who experience homelessness, freezing temperatures could be the difference between life and death.

Because of the cold, Second Congregational First Presbyterian Church in Rockford opened its doors Monday earlier than usual to accommodate all the people needing shelter.

“Simply the fact that we were able to do this. It was really very enticing for us,” says church volunteer Steve Muntz.

Steve and Mitzi Muntz volunteer at Second-First Church in Rockford. Their mission is to make sure anyone who needs shelter finds it.

“I think that the church sends out a trusting message to the homeless community that we’re there for them,” says Mitzi.

Volunteers like the Muntzes along with the Northern Illinois Homeless Coalition have served about 50 people a night. That number only increases as temperatures fall to lethal levels.

“We found out a couple or a few anyway there that have been moving on to getting housing and getting help and permanent housing so they won’t be needing us anymore,” says Steve.

Angie Walker is the city of Rockford’s Homeless Program coordinator. She says if you see someone on the street who needs help, offer them gloves or hand warmers.

“We’re always trying to decrease the homeless count,” says Walker. “If you donate your money to an organization, for example, your money actually stretches farther. So the donation that you might make to an individual instead of feeding that one person could feed a few.”

Food and shelter for the night may not seem like a lot but the Muntzes says this small gesture can go a long way.

“I look at it like I’m welcoming people to an event. You know, it’s not they’re not homeless to me. They’re just people that are coming to an event,” says Mitzi.

Volunteers say the church will open early for the next couple of days if the weather drops below ten degrees.

The church also asks for donations of things like coats, gloves and boots so they can give to those who need them the most.