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Homeless Shelter Expanding, Facing Additional Costs

by on April 28, 2015 6:50 AM

Since February 2013, a small basement at the corner of Fraser Street and College Avenue has been a source of comfort and shelter for people with nowhere else to turn.

Inside, the tiny space is crammed with coats and clothes, food and snacks and exhausted faces sleeping on couches. Those same faces will soon have to find somewhere else to go – but, for once, that’s actually good news.

State College’s Hearts for the Homeless shelter is moving to a larger space this August, which executive director Ginny Poorman says will allow her and her staff of dedicated volunteers to take their services to the next level.

“Moving into a bigger space had been on our radar for a while,” Poorman says. “But when this winter hit, we really realized that this space wasn’t going to cut it for another year.”

As this year’s brutal cold took its toll, Hearts for the Homeless played a crucial role in keeping some of State College’s most vulnerable residents warm and fed. But shelter assistant director Ashton Munoz also says that stretched the shelter’s resources pretty thin, and the number of people it serves isn’t getting any smaller.

The new space is a full house on Coal Alley, near the bus station, just off North Atherton Street. Munoz’s face lights up as he excitedly describes the new amenities the shelter will be able to offer its clients: a shower, a kitchen, a place to wash their clothes, warm beds instead of cramped couches.

Charles Lacock, a shelter client, says family troubles forced him onto the streets about three months ago. He says that, without the Hearts for Homeless shelter, his life would “be much harder, beyond the shadow of a doubt.”

“Everyone’s like family,” Lacock says. “Sure there might be issues sometimes, but it still feels like a family.”

Poorman says the shelter serves all kinds of people, many of whom an average person might not expect to be homeless: infants, children, high school students, Penn State students, senior citizens, and more. In addition to helping people find work and transitional housing, the shelter also puts people struggling with addiction and mental illness in touch with resources that can help them.

Poorman recalls one client in particular – a man diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia – who's able to stay in one the apartments the shelter maintains. He now has a roof over his head, he has friends he likes to spend time with at the shelter, and his cognitive functions have been slowly improving.

“To have someone with paranoid schizophrenia look you in the eyes and tell you they trust you has to be one of the most rewarding feelings in the world,” Poorman says. 

But even though the new house will give Poorman and Munoz the chance to make a similar impact on even more lives, the move comes with its challenges.

The rent is double what the current space costs. The house is heated by oil, which can be expensive. It doesn’t come with a washer or a dryer, so they’ll have to buy their own.  They’ll have to pay for a kitchen license to be able to serve food to their clients.

But Munoz isn’t worried. They have a loving community around them that’s very supportive, and he’s “very confident” that State College will come through once again.

“It might be a struggle, but it’s so worth the struggle,” he says.

To learn more, you can follow Hearts for the Homeless on Facebook or visit its website. You can also make a donation online. 

 

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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