How you can help the homeless?
As temperatures drop, Centre County’s cold weather homeless shelter is opening to provide hot meals and warm beds to those without.
Out of the Cold: Centre County is an emergency shelter that runs from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. every night mid-October through early May. There are 16 participating congregations in Centre County that host the shelter for two weeks each.
The shelter opens Monday night at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, located at 208 W. Foster Ave. in downtown State College.
Last season, 118 guests stayed with Out of the Cold.
Program Manager Beckie Romig said the shelter has steadily grown since it started in 2011 — partly because more people know about Out of the Cold, but she said she also thinks the homeless population has continued to grow.
“Last year we saw a pretty large influx of a much younger demographic, and (we’re) not quite sure why that is. … Some of them, I think, are folks that age out of the foster system and end up on the streets. And some it’s related to addiction, some it’s just related to financial considerations — it’s hard to find a job in this town that can sustain an apartment,” Romig said.
Centre County residents can stay at the shelter as long as they want, but out-of-county guests are limited to a 30-day stay unless they’re actively looking for housing or work somewhere locally, she said.
Guests need to register to stay the night, and then arrival is between 9 and 10 p.m. Each guest receives a hot dinner, a cot with blankets to sleep on, breakfast in the morning and a packed lunch to take, Romig said. Guests can only stay until 7 a.m. because many of the congregations operate preschools or day cares out of the same space used for the shelter.
Here’s how you can help
“We always need overnight volunteers,” Romig said. The organization is run almost entirely by volunteers.
Another “huge issue” is transportation, she said. Other than cash, donations of bus tokens are always welcome. Romig said some of the host churches are farther out than State College and so guests need to take the bus to get there.
Out of the Cold could also use snack donations, she said, like applesauce or fruit cups, crackers and granola bars — things that aren’t super sweet or salty.
Out of the Cold partners with as many local organizations as possible to provide additional resources to its guests, Romig said.
Centre Helps, Centre Cares, Housing Transitions Inc., Interfaith Human Services, MidPenn Legal Services, State College Food Bank and the Youth Service Bureau are all partner agencies.
Romig said Out of the Cold would love to be able to extend its season, but just doesn’t have the facilities to host the shelter longer than it already does.
She said they’re always looking for other churches or organizations that could join the lineup.
The long-term goal is to get a place of their own, Romig said.
“We would love to have a permanent place where we could operate a day shelter and an evening shelter so that we wouldn’t have to always be getting our guests up and running them out the door and then having them come in late in the evening,” she said. “If we had a more permanent structure that we could use year-round, that would be amazing.”
To register as an overnight guest or learn more about volunteering with Out of the Cold, call 852-8864.