Third Church was intimately involved in creating the Rochester Area Interfaith Hospitality Network (RAIHN), which serves families with children that are experiencing homelessness. Each congregation in the network hosts guest families in their church, temple, or other place of worship four times per year, one week at a time. Volunteers provide a warm welcome to guests, put together bedrooms, cook hot meals, and take down the entire set-up when the week is over.
Want to help host homeless families?
All new volunteers are paired with an experienced volunteer.
RAIHN Contact Information
What is RAIHN?
RAIHN is a non-profit network of 41 local, culturally diverse and caring faith communities who provide food, safe shelter and hospitality on a weekly basis throughout the year. Many traditional shelters are not equipped to handle complete families and young children. RAIHN’s goal is to provide near term support for homeless families, coupled with social services, leading to sustainable independence. RAIHN has a tremendous success rate; over 85% of families remain in permanent housing after one year. It is part of a national organization, Family Promise, with nearly 200 interfaith networks across the USA (www.familypromise.org)
What do you do as a host congregation?
We are one of 15 host congregations that provide physical lodging for 5 families (15 individuals) by transforming areas into family bedrooms and communal space. As a host congregation, we provide groceries, breakfasts and dinners for during their rotation week until families move to the next host site.
RAIHN transports the families to and from our church to the RAIHN day center located at 142 Webster Avenue, Rochester, NY. RAIHN staff provide personalized case management services even during their first year in permanent housing. (www. raihn.org)
What does it take to host the families for a week?
Our work typically involves over 70 volunteers for key tasks such as:
- Transforming Sunday school rooms into guest bedrooms and TV lounge area
- Setting up bathroom and kitchenette areas for our guests
- Providing freshly laundered sheets and towels for our guests
- Shopping for groceries for the week (basic breakfast food, lunch items, snacks)
- Shopping for basic supplies (tissues) as well as personal items (shampoo, toothpaste, etc)
- Providing hot dinners each day of the week, prepared at home or at the church, which we share with our guests
- Greeting our guests as they arrive each day & help them as needed while dinner is prepared
- Overnight hosts stay the night at Third and help our guests leave after breakfast the following morning
- Serving a hot breakfast on Saturday and Sunday mornings
- Converting our rooms back to the Sunday school’s configuration
- Laundering bedding and towels in preparation for our next rotation
What is a typical RAIHN day at Third Church?
- 5pm: Dinner hosts and greeters arrive to meet our guests as they come from the day center
- 5pm-6pm: Guests relax in their rooms or the common lounge while hosts prepare dinner
- 6pm: Dinner hosts, greeters & guests share dinner & fellowship together
- ~6:30pm: Guests return upstairs while dinner hosts clean up
- ~7pm: Dinner hosts/greeters join guests upstairs for conversation, quiet time or whatever
- 8:15pm: Overnight hosts arrive and interface with guests on morning routine for work & school; decide who wants coffee in the morning; remind guests that lunch supplies are available
- 10pm: Typically lights out and quiet time
- Overnight hosts can also retire at that time, unless some guests return from work late
- ~6am: RAIHN van comes to the church to pick up guess & return with them to the day center
- Children catch buses for school from the day center
- ~6:30 am: Overnighters empty garbage and lock the area for the day
Do I need any training?
Some volunteer roles require training; some do not. You can easily accomplish many tasks without any training, as we have well-documented processes. These tasks are short (1-2 hours) and well suited for youth desiring community service hours or busy individuals with limited time for volunteering.
- Pre-setup Saturday morning:stage beds, linens, lamps upstairs prior to actual setup on Sunday
- Set up Sunday morning:move desks from classrooms, setup beds, prep kitchen and bath areas
- Supplies and grocery shopping:can happen any time before guests arrive on Sunday at 1:30pm
Hosting roles which directly interface with our guests, such as dinners, breakfasts, and overnight, require a basic RAIHN training course. This training is provided monthly by the RAIHN staff.
What does the training entail?
RAIHN’s staff of trained social workers provides training to help our volunteers understand the various types of trauma that homeless families face. This additional training is optional, but valuable to anyone interested. Classes and times vary throughout the year.