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United Way of Lancaster County


Anchor Lancaster opens summer day center for unsheltered individuals

Guest services staff member Jesus Perez, left, and case worker Connor Doyle sit in Anchor Lancaster’s day center at First United Methodist Church in Lancaster on Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

A new day center has opened in Lancaster, expanding this summer’s indoor refuge options for homeless individuals.

Operated by the nonprofit Anchor Lancaster, it began welcoming guests Wednesday at the First United Methodist Church 29 E. Walnut St.

It offers a quiet, air-conditioned space where “folks can come in and just be out of the weather,” Anchor Lancaster Executive Director Patty Eastep said.

It will be open from 10:30 to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday from now into September, Eastep said.

There’s enough space for about 15 individuals. They can use the restroom, charge their phones, play games, read or just rest. Limited laundry services are available.

Two staff members oversee the site, a guest services employee (on Wednesday, it was Jesus Perez) and case worker Connor Doyle.

The center expands on Anchor Lancaster’s signature program: Each weekday morning, it serves free breakfast at the church to those in need, as well as free showers. Lately, it has been cooking around 120 meals a day. A community nurse from Penn State Health visits on Thursdays to provide checkups and basic medical services.

Deb Jones is director of Human Services at the Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority, which houses the office of the county Homelessness Coalition. She characterized the day center as a pilot initiative.

It is following the same model as the Lancaster County’s Food Hub’s “Welcome Place Drop-In Center,” she said. Both centers are low-barrier; both encourage engagement with case workers who can connect individuals with housing, recovery programs and other resources.

The Food Hub’s center is open weekdays from 12:30 to 4 p.m.

Operating Anchor Lancaster’s center will cost $18,000. On Tuesday, the redevelopment authority’s board signed off on providing the funds, which come from supplemental Community Development Block Grant funds provided as part of the federal pandemic relief effort.

Having that additional funding on hand was key, Jones said: Without it, “our options would be very limited.”

“We’re delighted to be able to partner with Anchor Lancaster,” she said.

Jones’ office is engaged in a broad effort to expand homelessness services, an effort supported with $1.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds from Lancaster city. It is looking to add another 40 shelter beds to the city’s low-barrier shelter capacity later this year, and is working on plans for the homelessness services hub at 134 S. Prince St. that is scheduled to open by fall 2024.