With colder weather comes phone calls from concerned community members asking what they can do to help the homeless in our area. We are always heartened by these caring inquiries. There are many ways to help the homeless: Help them find shelter; volunteer at a shelter; help meet the needs of the shelter; and advocate for the homeless.
You can direct the homeless to Centre House (by calling 237-5508), where we can provide a variety of housing services. Another option is finding overnight respite at a local church participating in Out of the Cold Centre County.
At Centre House, residents are welcome to stay indefinitely, as long as they work with a case manager to find housing and comply with house rules. These rules include house chores, a sobriety commitment and nightly life skills training classes. Centre House accommodates individuals and families with children, and is open year-round.
Another option is Out of the Cold Centre County, which operates during the coldest months of the year. This option, staffed by church volunteers, provides dormitory-style accommodations for homeless adults in our community. Residents are welcome to stay between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7:30 a.m.
To determine the best shelter option, we urge people to call the Community Help Centre at 237-5855.
Volunteering also helps. There are one-time opportunities such as helping at a fundraising event or participating in the United Way Day of Caring; or regular opportunities, such as volunteering at a participating Out of the Cold Church or helping with office work at Centre House. Visit www.housingtransitions.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Helping the shelters by contributing money or goods is important as well. To learn about Centre House shelter needs, visit the Housing Transitions website. Email Out of the Cold Centre County to learn about their needs.
Finally, talking about the issue helps tremendously. Let your friends and family know that you care about this issue. Invite them to join you in addressing homelessness in our community.
Each of our neighbors has a story. Some involve personal tragedies, including unemployment, illness or homelessness. Some of these stories might make us uncomfortable. It is important that we respond to this discomfort by turning to our homeless neighbors, rather than away from them. It is important to offer them a helping hand, and we thank you for your offers to do so. Together we can address the problem of homelessness in our community, maybe not overnight, but hopefully over time. We can’t not try.
Susanna Paul is the development and community relations coordinator at Housing Transitions, Inc, which has operated the Centre House homeless shelter since 1984.