Press Release: Canandaigua Rectory to Become Homeless Day Center
St. John’s in Canandaigua has had an empty rectory for nearly 25 years, although over that time they’ve used it for the occasional meeting, offices, the occasional yard sale, and for storage. Currently the dining room is filled with two huge chest freezers for the Gleaners Community Kitchen, but little else is around. The circa 1850’s house is a solid Victorian structure in the midst of the Historic District – a location that has hampered its use by other outside groups and programs.
Now, in cooperation with the Family Promise Program of Ontario County and Habitat for Humanity, “Withington House” as it’s known, will become converted space for a day center for homeless families of the county. Similar to the RAIHN program in Rochester (Rochester Interfaith Hospitality Network), homeless families will be housed overnight in churches around the county. During the day, older children will be bussed to their various school districts as the parents and youngest children are bussed to Withington House where the parents will meet with social workers and guidance personnel to seek employment, housing, and other assistance, working toward the goal of sustainable independence. With over 200 active programs across the country, Family Promise works ecumenically with churches and other agencies in specific and limited geographic areas to provide temporary housing and assistance to struggling families with children. Over 50 congregations across Ontario county have signed on to support the program in some form or fashion, from becoming overnight hosts to providing meals to those in the program, to donating time and energy in assisting those participants in the 24 hour-a-day cycle. Family Promise is limited to six families at a time, and while there are always exceptions, participants are limited to 90 days in the program.
St. John’s Vestry members Debbie Cole-Wenderlich and Bill Haizlip along with the rector, the Very Reverend David Hefling, are working with the City of Canandaigua and two local architects to make the necessary changes to the building, with a sensitivity to the fact that at some point in the future Withington House could be returned to its original use as a family home for a parish priest. But after nearly 25 years of sitting empty and with the need for small non-profits so great, not to mention the lack of housing for the homeless of Ontario County, this appears to be a perfect match. St. John’s, Family Promise, Habitat for Humanity, and a myriad other churches and groups are all jumping in, working together to assist, and donations of building materials, office and house supplies, and even a van for transportation have been offered and accepted. The goal is to open the program office by late October and opening day for the Day Center will is set for mid-February, 2018. As Debbie Cole-Wenderlich has said, “I’ve been on every discernment team for Withington House for the past 25 years and I really want to see this happen!” And it seems as though it will!
Contact for this story:
The Very Rev. David Hefling, ObJN+, St. John’s, Canandaigua