St. James Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission joins Safe and Warm Coalition

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat . . . “ Matthew 25: 35

More than 242 children in Cayuga County were without permanent shelter during the 2022-23 school year, the most recent statistics available from the New York State Department of Education. The numbers reflect only the children whose families self-reported their living situations to the public schools, allowing their children to receive educational services under the federal McKinney-Vento Act.

During the annual count of unsheltered people in January, the Housing and Homeless Coalition of CNY found a 75 percent jump in people sleeping outside in Cayuga and Onondaga counties and a 400 percent jump in the number of people living on the streets in Oswego County. Moreover, hundreds of families and individuals are living in shelters and/or in motels across Central New York due to an acute shortage of affordable, permanent housing.

The St. James Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission (RJRC) has joined the efforts of the United Ministry of Aurora, The Quaker Meeting of Poplar Ridge and the Harriet Tubman AME Zion Church of Auburn to offer respite care to people who are homeless in Cayuga County. It’s called Safe and Warm. The project offers safe space every Friday afternoon from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Harriet Tubman Church where people can grab a hot beverage, snacks or simply hang out.

Safe and Warm also includes an outreach component in which some 100 bag lunches are prepared and delivered to families and individuals living in motels in the Auburn area. The lunches are prepared at St. James. Ten people from St. James church underwent training and are volunteering regularly for this program.

“On a personal level, Safe and Warm has touched me to my core,” says Molly Spalding, a member of St. James RJRC. “I have a brother who is homeless and with whom I have no contact, so I can’t help him. This program is enabling me to touch others who are in a similar or worse situation.”

Food for the program has been obtained through donations from Wegmans and Apple Acres in Lafayette as well as through monetary donations, including a donation from the St. James Thrift Shop.

“Participating in the Safe and Warm initiative has had a monumental effect on me,” says Kathy Ploufe, a member of St. James RJRC.  “My Spiritual growth has intensified.  It has aided my understanding of the reasons behind homelessness. At first I was afraid to engage in this program because of my incorrect impressions of people in our community who are homeless and poverty-stricken. Helping the homeless is not only a compassionate act but also one that can have a profound impact on society. By providing support to those in need, we foster a sense of community and social responsibility.”

You can help:

  • Donate nonperishable food items (bread, creamy peanut butter, jelly, wrapped snacks)
  • Help make bag lunches at St. James
  • Become trained to staff the Safe and Warm physical site in Auburn
  • Help deliver lunches to people living in motels in Auburn
  • Monetary donations can be made to the “Harriet Tubman Liberation Foundation” with Safe and Warm in the comment section of the check  This is a tax deductible gift as the Foundation is a Section 501(c) 3 charity.

For more information, contact Meg Osborne at or call the Parish Office at 315-685-7600.