Dimitri House says it is on the brink of closing, needs volunteers

(WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. - A local shelter is on the brink of closing, and they’re asking for help to keep their doors open in these frigid winter months.

The Dimitri House needs volunteers. For years, the staff has welcomed folks experiencing homelessness, like Michael Bush, providing him with a bite to eat, and a place to stay.

“They’re my help. They keep my full. I get to eat, stay warm,” said Bush.

“You try to help them out. Put a smile on their face,” said John Alessi, a volunteer.

But the shelter may soon close. Executive Director Laurie Jones-Prizel says the Dimitri House relies on volunteers like Kate and John Alessi, especially at night.

The shelter is running on half the staff it needs to stay open.

She says many volunteers who’ve served the shelter for decades are getting older, and few are physically able to volunteer as much.

“We are at an absolute desperate situation for volunteers for the shelter,” said Jones-Prizel.

What's more, she says the millennial generation just doesn’t have the time. Nicole Sheldon is here for college.

“I have a job and an internship, as well, but I move things around in my schedule so I can help them," she said.

But that's not the only challenge to get volunteers.

“Many people have that scary vision of this very drug -addicted individual, standing on the corner, begging for a dollar with that perception that they’re going to run out and buy something that they’re not supposed to be doing, and that’s not what we’re seeing here," said Jones-Prizel. "We do serve a lot of vets. Sadly, we get a lot of post-traumatic stress individuals running through the door. It could be as young as 20 years old running through the door. There’s also a huge number of young people who’ve fallen into the opioid addiction component and the families tried as they might, eventually get to tough love dealing with conditions in the home."

"We do have a large community of LGBTQ in the home, where the family is not interested in supporting their lifestyle," she added.

Jones-Prizel hopes the next generation will see how valuable it is to give their time, and keep the Dimitri House doors open.

“It’s really one of the best opportunities to meet people that are experiencing homelessness in Rochester kind of understand that it could be any of us at any given time," she said, adding, "I guarantee you’ll want to come back. It’ll change your life.”

Anyone who may be interested in helping at the Dimitri House can email them at generalinfo@dimitri-house.org or call them at (585) 325-1796. Their biggest need right now: overnight shifts from 8 p.m. until 7 a.m.

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