Ebenezer Baptist Church (Photo: PhotOle Photography)
Ebenezer Baptist Church (Photo: PhotOle Photography)

Lancaster County's network of overnight emergency shelters officially shifts into winter mode today, expanding and adjusting their operations to help clients through the cold weeks ahead.

They are doing so just ahead of a sharp change in the weather: While today's high will be around 60 degrees, Tuesday's high will be in the upper 30s, and flurries are possible Wednesday.

There will be more beds available this year than last, said Jenn Koppel, executive director of Lanc Co MyHome, the county's homeless coalition.

For starters, ECHOS, or Elizabethtown Community Housing & Outreach Service, has opened its new 6,800 square foot winter shelter at Community Place on Washington, 105 E. Washington St.

The common room can accommodate up to 30 individuals, and there are three family rooms with space for four people each, for a total capacity of 42, operations coordinator Beth Dreyer-DeGoede said.

The site includes a kitchen and an on-site laundry. In the daytime, clients have easy access to the rest of Community Place's resources.

ECHOS previous shelter capacity was 30, Koppel said.

There will be more shelter space in Lancaster, too.

In previous years, the Lancaster County Food Hub has operated a winter-season women's shelter at St. Mary's Church on South Prince Street.

In early August, the Food Hub took over management of the overnight shelter at Ebenezer Baptist Church, which was launched by Rebel Cause in 2020. Rather than operate two sites, it is expanding at Ebenezer from 30 beds to 45 beds, Koppel and Food Hub executive director Paige McFarlaine said. The Food Hub has dubbed the shelter The Welcome Place.

There are separate areas for men and women, and St. Mary's will be available as an overflow site if necessary.

Throughout autumn, the Ebenezer site has been at or near capacity every single night, McFarlaine said.

Other key sites in Lancaster city include the year-round shelter at Water Street Mission; and TLC, Tenfold's transitional living facility at 105 E. King St. Facilities elsewhere in the county include Hands Across the Street's shelter in Columbia at 291 S. 4th St.; the shelter operated by Good Samaritan Services, 25 E. Locust St., Ephrata; and the aforementioned ECHOS shelter.

Emergency shelter

Winter and year-round shelter providers in Lancaster County include:

  • Columbia Shelter: 291 S. Fourth St., Columbia. Operated by Hands Across the Street.
  • Elizabethtown Emergency Shelter: Community Place on Washington, 105 E. Washington St., Elizabethtown.¬†Operated by ECHOS.
  • Good Samaritan Services, 25 E. Locust St., Ephrata.
  • Providence Shelter: Water Street Mission, 210 S. Prince St., Lancaster.
  • TLC: 105 E. King St., Lancaster. Operated by Tenfold.
  • The Welcome Place: Ebenezer Baptist Church, 701 N. Lime St., Lancaster. Operated by Lancaster County Food Hub.

Individuals who need shelter can contact providers directly; or be referred by an outreach worker or through United Way of Lancaster County's 211 service.

For shelter operators, this will their second year contending with the coronavirus pandemic. All sites are following Covid-19 protocols, and making free vaccination available to clients, Koppel said.

Shelter providers, especially smaller ones, are heavily reliant on volunteers. Anyone interested should reach out directly to the nonprofit they'd like to assist, Koppel recommended.

Tim Stuhldreher