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Cold Temperatures Bring Homelessness to Forefront

by on February 03, 2013 8:26 AM

Imagine being homeless.

Now imagine being homeless when the temperatures drop into the single digits, like they did just a week ago.

For many Centre County residents, freezing temperatures force them to find temporary housing, either in a group home, church or shelter.

Several area churches have come together to create “Out of the Cold: Centre County.” The program helps those who have no place to go when the weather takes a turn for the worse.

“The program started two years ago,” explained Kendra Gettig, outreach coordinator for Calvary Church in State College. “People were finding that Centre House (a homeless shelter) was often full during the winter, so a bunch of churches decided to form 'Out of the Cold.' The churches take turns hosting. It's a great program.”

“Out of the Cold: Centre County” began on Oct. 22 and will run until May 3. Calvary Church began hosting this week.

“It's our first night,” Gettig said. “We have five guests tonight who will get a nice place to sleep and some warm meals.”

According to Gettig, the church will provide cots, blankets and pillows for guests. Food comes from the local food bank or churchgoers will prepare meals.

“It's called 'Out of the Cold' and that's truly what it is. For most of our guests, the stories are different. Some just lost their homes. Some are transient and are not from (Centre County),” Gettig said.

The program provides shelter from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. ever night, Gettig said.

For those who have lost their homes and are looking for a more permanent residence, Housing Transitions, Inc. in State College is an option. HTI has several temporary properties where families can stay until a solution is found.

“Certainly, we are more aware of homelessness during the winter,” said Ron Quinn, executive director of HTI. “Numbers-wise, we really don't see a big jump. But the fact of the matter is that it's there. It's always there.”

HTI is a non-profit corporation offering a variety of housing services to Centre County residents in need. According to its website, HTI believes that housing crises are caused by a multitude of personal and financial difficulties that must be handled properly in order to arrive at sustainable solutions. Having a stable housing environment allows families and individuals to more effectively address underlying problems and increase their self-sufficiency.

According to Quinn, HTI's mission is to assist families and individuals achieve a more independent lifestyle by providing a plethora of effective and well-managed services.

“We are always there to help, especially when the weather turns like it has. Our staff is more aware of families who are struggling. We're on the lookout for people sleeping in cars, things like that. We're constantly monitoring those types of situations,” Quinn said.

HTI was founded in 1984 as a homeless shelter and has gradually become one of the primary housing resources in Centre County.

In addition to helping those who are homeless, HTI aids those who may be struggling to make ends meet. For example, a family might be having a hard time paying rent or making a mortgage payment. HTI tries to step in and help the family before they are forced out of their home.

“It really is a complex issue … an issue that we take very seriously. There are so many circumstances surrounding potential homelessness. It's often the result of a life-changing event, an illness or job loss that someone finds themselves in that situation,” Quinn said. “Our mission is is to step and help before being homeless enters the picture.”

For more information about “Out of the Cold: Centre County,” email ootccentreco@gmail.com.



Chris Morelli is the managing editor of The Centre County Gazette.
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