man walking out of shelter door
a wooden door
inside a room with a bookcase and chair

First Church Shelter

Since 1987, the mission of First Church Shelter has been to serve 14 men experiencing homelessness. It offers a safe space, home-cooked meals, and coaching. While in Shelter care, our guests strive to find housing, work, health services, and any other qualities of a good life they may need to get back on their feet. The Shelter aims to provide guests with a safe, dignified, and home-like space, along with hospitality and support, as they make steps to rebuild their lives. Guests are admitted via referrals from qualified professionals, and must not be dependent upon alcohol or drugs at the time of admission.

Circumstances for our 14 guests have become more difficult in recent years as housing availability, benefits bureaucracies, and costs in the greater Boston area have become barriers ever more difficult to surmount. As a result, the average stay of our guests lengthened during 2019 to about 7 months, and has slowed down even more as a result of the pandemic.With help from Homestart, Shelter staff offer guests support in the face of the often intimidating, difficult, and frustrating processes of identifying, applying for, securing, and waiting for public benefits and subsidized housing.

During non-COVID times, the Shelter opens at 6:00 every evening, and guests depart by 7:00 in the morning. In March 2020, however, the Shelter rapidly transitioned to become a daytime as well as a nighttime refuge for guests. It remains open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Are you looking for shelter?

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions for prospective guests.

Who can stay in the First Church Shelter?

A: To qualify for the Shelter, you must be a male aged 18 years or older. We are not able to admit guests with active drug or alcohol dependency, or anyone who is experiencing an acute psychiatric emergency.

How do I get in?

A: The First Church Shelter accepts referrals from credible service providers in the greater Boston area, including hospitals, other shelters, and social service agencies.

How long can I stay?

A: Length of stays vary and are negotiated between guests and staff. Guests are welcome to stay as long as they are actively working with shelter staff and other providers.

What are Shelter Hours?

A: The Shelter is open from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. During pandemic and weather emergencies, we do everything we can to keep people safe.

What are First Church Shelter facilities like?

A: Facilities include bunks, personal storage, access to showers and other bathroom facilities, a common area, a kitchen, and meals.

Can I stop by and talk to someone about admission to the Shelter?

A: Sorry, no. We work strictly through our referral procedures.

Looking to Help Out?

Work Projects

Would you like to volunteer for one of the Shelter’s periodic Work Projects? Please fill out a webform and we’ll get back to you!

Cooking Opportunites

Evening Meal

The Shelter welcomes contributions to our daily evening meal! We are looking for simple trays of food that feed our 14 guests and up to 2 staff members each night—casseroles, lasagnas, shepherd’s pie, chili, etc. Please visit our online signup to add yourself to the schedule:

Holiday Donations

Help make the Shelter holidays festive with donations of pies, egg nog, spiral hams, and other holiday treats! Contact Jim Stewart to let us know what you’re planning to donate.


Your gifts help make our work possible! We thank you for your generous support. Please give here.


We gladly receive donations in the form of everyday essentials:

  • sugar
  • coffee
  • shaving cream and razors
  • toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • deodorant
  • hand soap

Supplies may be labeled “First Church Shelter” and dropped off at the church office (11 Garden St., Cambridge) during business hours.