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December 20, 2012

One year later, Grace Center fills key needs

One year later, Grace Center fills key needs

Homelessness is not just a problem relative to the Cape Ann area, but religious leaders and volunteers have proven that the latest effort to tackle the problem locally can still be addressed.

The Grace Center celebrated its one year anniversary on Wednesday.

Volunteers and religious leaders joked that the Grace Center itself is a “homeless” homeless center, as it migrates from St. John’s on Wednesdays, the Unitarian Universalist Church on Tuesdays and the Trinity Congregational Church on Thursdays, open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The roving center was launched in December 2011, when the need for a dayside facility for the homeless emerged from discussions about the Action Inc. shelter, which is Cape Ann’s only residential homeless facility, but does not open for the night until 5 p.m.

Over its first year, the center has come to serve a number of people, from those with substance abuse problems to people who just need a meal and a place to rest their head, said Rev. Tom Bentley of Trinity.

Rector Bret Hays of St. John’s Episcopal Church said that at first, he was not sure what organizers were getting into. Looking back a year later, he said that by giving back to the community and giving back to people who need help, churches can once again be established as a place to get help, an age-old purpose of religious institutions.

“We serviced just about 200 people this year,” Bentley said. “Some people were regulars who needed somewhere to go until the Action center opened, others we just saw one or two times.”

The center encourages people to seek the right help, but does not force any religious belief upon anyone, Bentley said.

“A lot of it is just building a relationship,” he said. “Sitting down and talking to someone can make a big difference.”

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