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United Way of Lancaster County


Lancaster County Food Hub to focus on street outreach, renovation plans

The Lancaster County Food Hub, 812 N. Queen St. (Source: OUL file)

The Lancaster County Food Hub will be intensifying its focus on two priorities after the homeless shelter it operates winds down at the end of June: Enhancing its street outreach services; and pursuing a capital campaign to expand program space at its 812 N. Queen St. headquarters.

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

These are “the right next steps” for the nonprofit to take to serve homeless individuals and help them achieve stability, client care & outreach Manager Rebecca Saner said in an announcement Thursday.

Since 2021, the Food Hub has operated the city’s sole “low barrier” emergency shelter; that is, one that imposes minimal criteria for entry. Relocated last fall to 232 N. Prince St., the 40-bed shelter was temporarily expanded to 80 beds between December and May. It was full or close to it every night throughout the winter, Food Hub Executive Director Paige McFarling said.

The shelter’s lease is ending this month, because the property is poised to be redeveloped. Leaders of Lancaster County’s Homelessness Coalition were unable to find an alternative location, so the shelter is being shut down, leaving a gap between July and Dec. 1, when an 80-bed low-barrier shelter, operated by YMCA of the Roses, is expected to open at Otterbein United Methodist Church.

To offset the closure, the Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority is bolstering street outreach services, using grant funding raised by the Lancaster Community Foundation in partnership with Lancaster city government. The Food Hub operated the shelter under a contract with the authority, which houses the offices of the Lancaster County Homelessness Coalition.

The Food Hub said its own efforts to boost outreach will emphasize its “relationship-based” approach and additional collaboration with other coalition partners. Since 2021, more than 1,000 individuals, many of whom have been on the streets for months or years, have either slept at the low-barrier shelter or visited its day center; up to 50% of them have been placed in housing or referred to supportive services, the organization said.

In this November 2023 file photo, Justin Eby, left, executive director of the Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority, and Paige McFarling, right, executive director of the Lancaster County Food Hub, talk in the lobby of 232 N. Prince St., the temporary location of a low-barrier shelter operated by the Food Hub. (Source: OUL file)

Bringing the upstairs online

The Food Hub’s capital campaign is dubbed “Breaking Barriers, Building Futures.” Its goal is $1 million, which will underwrite the renovation of the Food Hub’s second floor.

The Lancaster County Food Hub’s plan for renovating the second floor at its headquarters. (Source: Lancaster County Food Hub)

The key component is the installation of an elevator and a fire-rated emergency stairwell. That will bring the second floor space, totaling about 5,500 square feet, up to code and handicap accessible.

What will go there? It’s envisioned as a flexible, multi-purpose space, McFarling said, one that “will allow us to be responsive to the needs of clients and the community.”

If need be, the space could accommodate 30 beds or so for an emergency overnight shelter. Whether it’s actually used that way or not will depend on client needs and the overall landscape, McFarling said. If a shelter would be beneficial, the Food Hub will move ahead with one; if it makes more sense to support other shelters like the one at Otterbein instead, “that is a logical option,” she said.

“Fundamentally, the intention of the renovated space is to enhance the supportive service offerings we do provide,” McFarling said, “and expand space for those partners who can bring additional resources to the table.”

Those partners include the Refresh Lancaster mobile shower trailer, which deploys in the Food Hub’s parking lot every week during its operating season; the Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health street medicine team; other city-based service providers and the county’s health & human services department.

The Food Hub’s headquarters currently accommodate a food bank, a clothing bank, a day center, a “food farmacy” operated in partnership with LG Health and warehouse and office space.

The public portion of the capital campaign is being launched with $500,000 already committed, leaving $500,000 more to go. McFarling said she hopes the second floor can open sometime next winter.

That’s also when the Homelessness Coalition hopes to open the $8.2 million hub it is planning at the former Neighborhood Services Building in the 100 block of South Prince Street. It, too, is envisioned as a one-stop shop: The tentative layout would provide for a community space with laundry facilities, lockers and computers; a shared office area for service providers and clients to meet; and a mix of short-term “crisis housing” and medium-term “supportive housing” units.

Asked how that project and the Food Hub’s expansion relate to each other, McFarling and Deb Jones, director of the coalition’s administrative office, said they will be complementary.

“There is plenty of room at the table,” Jones said. McFarling said the Food Hub anticipates “finding areas for collaboration wherever feasible.”