March 2024 blog

Hello Step Up beds...goodbye totes!

By Brad Gerlach

Volunteer Manager

Our tagline reads “Food, Shelter, Hope” and I sometimes wonder if we should add “Sleep” to that list.  We cannot do much about the inconvenience of communal sleeping (snoring, nightmares, etc.) but we do put a good deal of effort into creating the best sleeping environment possible.  Good sleep supports our guests’ physical and mental health.


When we opened, we started with 41 bunk bed units and the sleeping areas, especially the flex rooms, were designed with those beds in mind.  It became clear, however, that many of our guests could not access the upper bunks.  Once we hit about 60 guests in the building, we scrambled to put mattresses on the floor in the sleeping areas and hallways (the spots were marked by painters’ tape).


To address the capacity challenges, we worked with the fire marshal to reconfigure in order to get as many upper bunks down on the ground as possible.  This helped but we still struggle with finding appropriate beds; as I write this, we have had a female guest staying in one of the isolation rooms up front as we have not had a lower bunk available in the women’s sleeping area in more than a month.


In addition to bed accessibility, we currently wrestle with several other challenges.  Now with seven years of wear and tear, some beds show structural issues. So, thanks to TC Presbyterian church, we have added plywood to reinforce some while removing others completely.  The current beds also sit too high for some of our shorter guests with physical issues to access safely.  


We recently added four new single beds which are lower and wider to accommodate these guests (we are grateful for Sojourn Church’s assistance here).  Also looming, and this is a significant immediate cost, will be mattress replacement as almost all of the current ones have reached the point of failure.


So where to?  We did, thanks to the Cosgrove Foundation, add a Step Up bed, which provides much greater accessibility to the upper bunks, a higher level of guest comfort and are far more welcoming than our current very institutional-looking beds.  The Step Up beds also come with a great side benefit - locking lockers for each guest sleeping in that unit.  


Yes, that would mean no totes in the sleeping areas and the guests could protect their belongings.  The new unit has been very popular with guests to the point where staff have been offered many bribes by guests in order that they can sleep there.  Our goal will be to move to as many of those units as we can fit over the next few years.