In early December 2004, a group of concerned community leaders partnered with the Mount Kisco Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Council, the Northern Westchester Interfaith Clergy Association, and the leadership of the Village of Mount Kisco, to address what it saw as a growing problem of homelessness in Northern Westchester County.
Reports of homeless men suffering through severely cold winters and, in some cases, dying outdoors from exposure, mobilized the group to develop a program for a winter night emergency shelter. By mid-January, 2005, the group had developed plans to launch an emergency shelter. The core of the shelter concept consisted of a handful of churches opening their doors to offer a safe place to sleep to those in need of shelter. The emergency shelter began operation on January 24, 2005 at the Bedford Presbyterian Church in Bedford Village, providing shelter for four men. Volunteers from the organizing task force provided the coverage each night of that first week. The American Red Cross generously provided the cots and bedding for the shelter.
Once the need for a winter shelter became clear, other local congregations agreed to participate: First Presbyterian Church, Katonah; Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Mount Kisco; Mount Kisco Presbyterian; and Mount Kisco United Methodist Church. Each participating congregation provided at least two weeks of emergency shelter over the course of last winter.
From that first winter the ESP coalition has now grown to 16 congregations who host the shelter for either one or two weeks each winter.