Good Life

Helping Hands: Community support key to alleviating homelessness

Homelessness is caused by many complex factors that are unique to each individual and family.

A common thread, though, is that people who find themselves without shelter lack a positive support system. Having social connections and support is a basic human need. We all depend on it, but for many of the homeless clients at Housing Transitions the support seems to have run out, or perhaps was never present.

It takes courage to leave difficult relationships, attempt to overcome mental illness or addiction and to deal with life-altering events such as illness or disability. It takes even more courage if it means you become shelterless and alone.

For many people entering the Centre House homeless shelter, support systems have escaped them.

The staff works hard to connect or reconnect the residents with help they need. In addition to providing housing case management, they assist clients in finding the community resources that can help them overcome the issues they are facing. The shelter itself can become a support system.

One client, who has now moved into a transitional housing unit, said, “I have three or four friends that I talk to and I’m pretty sure … yeah, all of my friends I’ve met at the shelter. Because they know what it’s like, I guess. It’s the same kind of situation.”

Feeling community support within the shelter is what helps provide hope for the residents. Often, Centre House receives gifts that greatly uplift the spirits of residents and staff. Just since the first of the year, a grant from the Friedman Family Foundation allowed for the purchase of headboards and dressers for the bedrooms in the shelter.

A group of Penn State students from the Interfraternity Council volunteered to install them. Students from Penns Valley Intermediate School raised more than $1,000 for Centre House, and City Serve volunteers painted the hallway between residents’ rooms. CityServe is a yearly service weekend sponsored by Calvary Baptist Church and encourages church and community members to donate time to organizations throughout the Centre Region.

As part of CityServe, the BHL Partnership, headed by Gary Bontrager and Steve Hackman Builders, donated time and materials to renovate an entire bathroom on the lower level of the shelter. They installed much needed doors on a common area to help expand the use of the modest space, which includes offices.

With assistance from George McMurtry and staff at America’s Carpet Outlet, they also installed new flooring throughout the lower level and in the entryway to Centre House.

This kind of support greatly helps to connect the homeless residents with our caring community, and helps them to feel renewed and give them energy to move forward toward a sustainable future.