An independent news publication of
United Way of Lancaster County


Homeless coalition seeks workers for street outreach in city

Water Street entrance to the Lancaster County Food Hub’s overnight shelter in the 200 block of North Prince Street. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

The Lancaster County Homelessness Coalition is seeking to partner with local nonprofits to expand staffing for the Homelessness Street Outreach program in Lancaster city.

In a request for letters of intent (PDF) posted this week on the website of its parent organization, the Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority, the coalition says it has the funding to add two full-time individuals, or the equivalent, to the program, at an estimated cost of $70,000 to $80,000 per position.

The post asks local agencies to submit letters outlining their capabilities and how they would meet the proposed scope of work, which includes engaging with homeless individuals, providing services, making referrals to housing and other assistance programs and completing required documentation.

The deadline is 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 9. The coalition said it hopes to have the additional outreach workers on the street by May 31, and to maintain the additional presence through the end of June 2025.

Interim plan

The expansion is part of the coalition’s interim plan (PDF) to compensate for the loss of 80 low-barrier shelter beds in Lancaster, hosted at the former Benjamin Roberts building at 232 N. Prince St. and managed by the Lancaster County Food Hub.

Half of the beds were provided as a temporary winter expansion. They were decommissioned on Monday, following the end of the contract on Sunday.

They supplemented a 40-bed shelter that was established early in the pandemic and relocated to North Prince Street late last year. It is expected to fold up at the end of June, when its lease and the Food Hub’s management contract both expire. After that, property owner Parcel B Development Co. is hoping to start work on its $30 million apartment project at the Benjamin Roberts site, so it will be unavailable. (Previously, the lease had been due to end in May, but it was extended one month.)

City officials say the shelter cannot return to Ebenezer Baptist Church due to the lack of a sprinkler system and other limitations. Coalition and redevelopment authority officials say they have been looking for another site, to no avail.

In December, the coalition plans to open an 80-bed shelter at Otterbein United Methodist Church, following an estimated $1.4 million in renovations, including a sprinkler system. In the meantime, the coalition states categorically in its request for letters of intent: “There will be no low-barrier emergency shelter beds operating from July until December 2024.

Advocates and social service providers have said they expect that to result in more individuals gathering outdoors and sleeping on the street. While in the past many have sheltered under the eaves of the County Government Center at 150 N. Queen St., it is legally off limits: It is posted with no-trespassing signs and this month a fence is being installed around the perimeter of the complex.

The coalition currently funds three street outreach workers within the city, spokeswoman Jocelyn Naples said. They are part of a larger overall effort that includes staff funded by other nonprofits as well as health services such as Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health’s street medicine team.

“Low-barrier” shelters impose minimal criteria for admission: The Food Hub’s rules are that clients be able to care for themselves without assistance and not pose a danger to themselves or others. Other categories of shelter often have additional requirements, such as taking part in programming or passing drug tests.

(Editor’s Note: This story was updated April 4 to add Jocelyn Naples’ comment.)