Berry students team with shelter to serve the homeless community

Amberlee Williams, COM 250 Reporter

Hallie Marie McErlain, COM 303 Editor

ROME, Ga. – Berry Students teamed with the William S. Davies Shelter to serve the homeless community throughout the school year. 

The William S. Davies Shelter is a faith-based, men’s transitional shelter that helps its guests regain stability and reach their goals. According to Director Devon Smyth, guests have individual case plans and receive various health services, including mental health and substance abuse assessments. Smyth said that many people are homeless because of mental health problems.

“Nobody’s journey is a straight line,” she said.

Night and operations manager Brian Harris said he did not want a guest to see themselves as homeless. Harris wants them to understand that they are just down on their luck and still are a good person.

“Mistakes happen; that doesn’t mean we’re going to treat [them] any differently,” he said.

Berry students played a big role at The Shelter this academic year, taking up important tasks and showing care to guests. Year of Service volunteers, individuals and more came to serve. Berry students worked in the garden, cleaned, cooked meals, and spent quality time with guests. In addition, Smyth said Bonner Scholars came on weekends, and student athletes came to help in the winter.

Students Meghan Albritton (wheelbarrow) and Maddy James (shovel) from
Catherine Cottage work with other Berry students in the garden at the
William S. Davies Shelter in Rome, Georgia.
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Gunter

The women of Catherine Cottage chose The Shelter to be their Year of Service partner for the academic year. Almost every night, a cottage member came to serve dinner and talk with guests. Elizabeth Gunter, a member of Catherine Cottage, was instrumental in getting the cottage to choose The Shelter as their service partner. Gunter said that serving put her in contact with people she otherwise would not have known.

“It’s all just getting to know people and hearing their stories, and figuring out how you can help them reach their dreams,” Gunter said.

The first Monday of every month, Anthropology Professor Brian Campbell and his anthropology students held “First Mondays.” Campbell led his students and the Catherine Cottage volunteers in large garden projects: laying mulch, harvesting food and more. That night, the cottage served a big meal to the guests. According to Harris, having Berry students serve dinner was fantastic; it allowed him to take care of other tasks at hand.

Smyth said the students were crucial at The Shelter, and she did not know how they accomplished so much before the students came.

Senior Ellen Summerlin began volunteering this academic year and helped serve dinner almost every Monday night. Summerlin said The Shelter was sustaining, impactful, and doing amazing things for the men. For her, volunteering was the least she could do.

“It’s made me aware of how easily we can help other people by doing just the smallest things,” she said.

Whether or not the serving was grand in size, the results were certainly crucial for those being served. Summerlin said that one guest told her he had no idea Berry students cared about them that much. She also said that when students served, it gave more time for the guests to have fun.

Professor Campbell’s anthropology class also hosted a cooking competition last year, where the guests at The Shelter got to be judges. Harris said that they really got into it and had a lot of fun.

While The Shelter offers great resources for homeless men in Rome and the surrounding area, there is not much help for homeless women. Harris said the Salvation Army has four beds for women, and the Hospitality House only supports battered women. Harris said he received four or five calls a day from women who need shelter.

He said one woman was left with nothing after her husband divorced her. Harris told her to call 911, and they told her to park her car under a streetlamp at Walmart. There was nowhere else close for her to go to.

The Shelter is currently fundraising for a single women’s shelter as well as a shelter for women and children. Catherine Cottage raised almost $700 this year in funding for the shelters. Gunter said that next year, she wants to focus all cottage events on raising money for those shelters. She said she wants them to host a 5K run or possibly bigger events to help fundraise. These shelters will be a great addition to what The Shelter is doing now for its men.

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