http://www.nytimes.com/1988/03/13/nyregion/homeless-find-humanity-at-private-shelters.html New York Times article from 1988.
Our church used to do this in the late 80s, early 90s, I think—a busload of people would come for dinner and a night’s sleep off the street or away from the shelters. Volunteers helped with food prep and baby sitting. I don’t remember how long this went on—a year or two, but I think the volunteers burned out pretty fast. Eventually our church took in the Hilltop Lutheran church members and facility, so our focus for volunteering shifted there.
''No matter how good the city system is, no matter how good their people are, they cannot provide the kind of care, concern and dignity that folks from churches and synagogues in the neighborhoods can do,'' said Peter P. Smith, the president of the Partnership for the Homeless.
But in practice, it is all but impossible to compare the two systems and to say how much of the difference is due to individual acts of charity and caring and how much to screening. Those who stay at the church shelters must be willing to abide by a series of rules and are carefully selected: drug addicts, alcoholics and the mentally unstable are unwelcome.
Once they pass the test, they must be willing to wait up to an hour or more for a bus ride to a distant church or synagogue, where they are often awakened at 6:30 the next morning for a bus ride back. Since some shelters, including B'nai Jeshurun's, are open only three or four days a week, they must also juggle a complicated schedule.
The screening system reduces the risks of incidents at churches and helps keep the most vulnerable among the homeless - those most likely to be robbed or victimized - out of city shelters.
So, I googled my question: and here’s what I found. 120 churches in the Columbus area had an Interfaith Hospitality Network, which began in 1988 and morphed to became a bricks and mortar family shelter.
The IHN began as the second housing network in the United States in 1988 and grew to include more than 120 churches. The system allowed homeless families to sleep on cots at various religious institutions nightly and the next morning were bused back to a day center (400 W. Broad St.). By the end of the 1990s, YWCA Columbus had assumed 24-hour responsibilities in transporting the families and managing day services. The realization that family homelessness was a social issue that was not going to go away led to a number of staff transitions and further visioning of a new model for responding to family homelessness. By 2003, the YWCA began planning its new Family Center and successfully completed a $7-million capital campaign to build it. [according another link it opened in 2005]