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Centre County overnight homeless shelter opens ‘stop-gap measure’ during the day

Tobias Egen chats with others as he eats a bowl of food on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018.  Out of the Cold: Centre County is now offering daytime shelter hours and lunch, which many local restaurant donate to, like Tuesday’s lunch from Indian Pavilion.
Tobias Egen chats with others as he eats a bowl of food on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. Out of the Cold: Centre County is now offering daytime shelter hours and lunch, which many local restaurant donate to, like Tuesday’s lunch from Indian Pavilion. adrey@centredaily.com

It wasn’t something they planned for, but they saw a need and went to fill it.

The staff, volunteers and partner agencies that make up Out of the Cold homeless shelter — which has roving locations in Centre County — recently opened a day shelter to help “fill the void” left by the closing of Hearts for the Homeless this past summer.

“We are grateful to partner with two downtown churches to offer some time for the unsheltered in our community to get out of the cold, shower, enjoy lunch and community, and connect to local resources,” said a post on the organization’s Facebook page on Saturday.

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Out of the Cold: Centre County is a nonprofit emergency shelter that is open every night between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. from mid-October to early May. Staffed almost entirely by volunteers, the shelter provides a cot to sleep on, blankets, a hot meal, breakfast in the morning and case management services to clients who want help securing housing. The host location switches every two weeks between 16 different churches located in State College, Boalsburg and Port Matilda.

But when Hearts for the Homeless — a day shelter — closed, there were little to no options for the homeless population in Centre County to rest, eat and shower during the day, said Out of the Cold Program Manager Beckie Romig.

“My golly, our guests are not going to have anywhere to go, during the day,” Romig said she thought when she heard the news.

First, the nonprofit tried to see if it could rent Hearts for the Homeless’ old space at 100 S. Fraser St. in State College, but the building’s code changed so that it was no longer set up as a rental.

Romig reached out to some of Out of the Cold’s partner congregations and found a workable solution. On Mondays and Wednesdays, clients have the option of going to St. Paul’s United Methodist Church at 250 E. College Ave. and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, clients can go to Faith United Church of Christ across the street at 300 E. College Ave. Both places serve lunch at 11 a.m. and are open between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., but only Faith United has a shower for clients to use.

Most of the lunches are provided by community donation. Brothers Pizza, India Pavilion, Subway and Uncle Chen’s are some of the restaurants that regularly donate food, said Romig. Grace Prep has also provided soups for lunch.

“And not only with lunch, but just with ... there’s like a unique community among the homeless in town ... just the need to get out of the public eye ... they so often feel like they’re being looked down upon, judged,” Romig said.

Though this solution will carry Out of the Cold and its clients through the winter and spring, Romig said it is not the end goal.

“Ultimately we would love to expand ... if we could find a space ... particularly if they had access to a shower,” she said. “This is our stop-gap measure.”

Due to church services and programs on the weekends, the shelter is unable to offer daytime hours on Saturdays and Sundays.

“We have some real estate plans,” Romig said. “Unfortunately rent in this community is fairly steep.”

Though Out of the Cold was not planning on opening a daytime shelter, and the board has not taken any concrete steps toward creating a permanent program, Romig said, “everybody recognizes that it’s a huge need.”

If you are interested in volunteering with Out of the Cold, email ootccentreco@gmail.com.

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