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Volunteer-run Out of the Cold is in 7th season

Out of the Cold: Centre County is a partnership of local churches providing emergency overnight shelter for our local homeless population. Founded in 2011, our seventh season began on Oct. 23 and will close May 6.

Several years ago the Community Safety Net identified a need for additional overnight shelter space due to a growing homeless population in Centre County. Shortly thereafter, a man, sleeping in a tent during the winter, passed away from hypothermia. This event underscored the urgency of the shelter need and, as a result, Out of the Cold was founded. Beginning with four churches the first year, our ministry has grown steadily with 15 congregations currently serving.

The shelter is open every night from 9 p.m. until 7 a.m. and guests pre-register by calling 852-8864. Each person receives a hot dinner, cot, blankets and breakfast. Every two weeks Out of the Cold rotates to a new host church.

While homelessness is well hidden in our community, it exists. This season we have served more than 80 different guests, 53 of whom are Centre County residents, averaging 15 a night. Some folks stay only one night, while others use the program much longer. Each guest has a unique story, but family conflict, mental health, addiction, abuse, abandonment, trauma and death are common themes. Anyone needing shelter is welcome.

Out of the Cold values partnerships with other agencies. Many guests also spend time at Hearts for Homeless, a day shelter. There they are provided a warm place to stay, lunch and assistance accessing other services — medical assistance, clothing, food, permanent housing, etc. Housing Transitions, Centre County Women’s Resource Center and Centre County Youth Service Bureau have helped many of our guests find housing. Of our 80 guests this year, 25 are enjoying a permanent living situation.

Out of the Cold is almost entirely volunteer run. Each evening four volunteers spend the night, while others prepare food, assist with check in, and visit with the guests. Approximately 400 volunteers have served this season. More participating churches would allow Out of the Cold to extend the season: between May and October our guests are forced to find alternative sleeping arrangements, often resulting in their sleeping, unsheltered, exposed to the elements.

If you or anyone you know is currently unsheltered, call 852-8864 to register for the night.

For more information, visit www.ootc3.org.

Kendra Gettig is the Calvary Church outreach director. Contact her at 238-0822, extension 20, or Kendra@calvarysc.org.

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