Sleep on It

Beginning in April 2013, the Presbyterian Night Shelter has been working diligently to see its off the mat campaign come to fruition.

The campaign’s purpose is to provide a bed for each of the shelter’s nightly clients. According to Executive Director Toby Owen, moving people from the floor and placing them in beds impacts the shelter’s ability to provide care with dignity. It humanizes the individuals and gives them the respect they deserve, he explained. 

The Presbyterian Night Shelter has been providing safety and care for Fort Worth’s homeless community since 1984. During that time, the shelter has used a combination of both beds and mats. PNS has four separate sleeping programs, and the Off the Mat campaign targets the largest of these facilities — the singles shelter. This shelter is for single men and women only and can comfortably provide sleeping arrangements for around 400 people a night. The number of individuals staying in the shelter varies by season, usually becoming more crowded during the extreme cold of winter and the heat of mid-summer.

PNS is a unique shelter in that there are no restrictions on for whom they will provide care. They will not turn anyone away based on personal background or particular circumstances; there are no time restrictions for how long an individual can stay; and they do not charge for their services. As such, the shelter relies heavily on donations from individuals and organizations alike. The Off the Mat campaign was made possible by several large donations, and a local non-profit, the Fort Worth Foundation, donated the beds. The mattresses are organized as bunk beds that are being handcrafted locally. They are made of steel and are extremely sturdy – the shelter has been using these specific bunk beds for more than 15 years, and they show no signs of wear.

In order to finish the campaign, PNS needs community support. They are currently looking for new or slightly used sets of linens for twin-sized beds, as well as pillows and pillow cases. They currently hand out sheets based on first-come-first-served; however, there are not nearly enough to service everyone. The campaign should be finished by the end of summer and will hopefully provide a bed for every head.