BRISTOL â€“ With the pandemic adding pressure, Brianâ€™s Angels Homeless Outreach continues to push forward with its mission of providing help to the areaâ€™s homeless but notes itâ€™s also requiring more assistance to meet those needs.
â€śWhat we need the most is more space,â€ť said the nonprofitâ€™s founder, Pat Stebbins.
Quan Graham, 29, said heâ€™s been living in Bristol for around 12 years and has been a patron of Brianâ€™s Angels for about a year. Graham said the organization has helped him get a new birth certificate, social security card and other credentials.
â€śPersonally, I think itâ€™s about figuring out who does and who doesnâ€™t need it,â€ť said Graham about social support and Bristolâ€™s housing challenges. â€śI think we have to give a drug test and I think sober time is best.â€ť
He noted that he had struggled with addiction in the past himself.Â
â€śI know thereâ€™s a lot of apartments that are supposed to be built,â€ť he said. â€śI still think weâ€™ll need more. Thereâ€™s a lot of homeless people out here.â€ť
According to Stebbins, the group doesnâ€™t only provide space it also serves at least 300 meals a week and thatâ€™s not including snack bags as well. Sheâ€™s also seeing more and new faces appearing at Prospect United Methodist Church, the current home of Brianâ€™s Angels, which is causing the organization to find more help.
â€śWeâ€™re looking for our first employee and one of our board members is working on a grant right now,â€ť said Stebbins.
The outreach currently has around 30 volunteers who assist food and supply distribution efforts at the programâ€™s headquarters, however, Stebbins said could use more assistance as she looks to address the more administrative needs of the organization. The pandemic has also slowed volunteer assistance as individuals sometimes must call ahead to inform her they need to consider isolation or recover from covid-like symptoms.
For a time at the beginning of the pandemic, the founder noted the outreach was still serving meals but to patrons outside of the building and into colder winter weather. The outreach is once more open to serving indoors and Stebbins said the group wants to provide another area where individuals facing homelessness can find a few hours under a roof while following covid safety protocols.
â€śTwo years last September, I came and I was here mainly working in the back and covid hit,â€ť said volunteer Susan Comstock. â€śWe had to close up and we could not allow the clients inside. We were able to open the door and put a table there to serve. Thatâ€™s when we started asking residents for hot meals and the community has been unbelievably generous in providing that.â€ť
She said the outreach has opened again one year after its closure and continues to follow pandemic protocols. Comstock said she has volunteered four days a week but currently is volunteering three with the program.
For a time, Stebbins said the outreach was looking to provide classes to those who wished to acquire their GED, but the pandemic delayed the effort. Brianâ€™s Angels volunteers assist patrons in an attempt to find housing, job needs or even a bus ticket to the home of a relative, if wanted.
Currently, the outreach operates Tuesday through Sunday from noon to three with showers from twelve to one, food from one to 2:30 and the last portion of time spent supplying patrons with needed items or meal cleanup.Â
Stebbins created Brianâ€™s Angels to focus on helping others struggling with homelessness. Her son, Brian Pinz, died in 1998 after also dealing with homelessness for a time. While her main inspiration is mainly to help others, Stebbins said she was also motivated to help others due in part to her sonâ€™s experiences.
â€śPat does a lot for us, aside from the food,â€ť Graham said. â€śBasically everything on my body came from donations and sometimes if we donâ€™t eat sheâ€™ll hand out gift cards or bring us food. Itâ€™s a place where one can relax after standing outside or being in hallways all day. Patâ€™s great in how she runs the place.â€ť