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United Way of Lancaster County


Officials announce 40-bed expansion of city homeless shelter, ask public for financial support

Workers stack mattresses and bed frames during the relocation of Lancaster’s low-barrier emergency shelter to North Prince Street on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

City, county and nonprofit officials announced Monday that will double the capacity of the emergency shelter in the former Benjamin Roberts building on North Prince Street; and urged the public to donate money for the initiative.

Financial support is needed “to make the shelter expansion a reality for Lancaster’s most vulnerable neighbors,” read a joint statement issued by the City of Lancaster, Lancaster County Homelessness Coalition, Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority and Lancaster County Food Hub.

The Lancaster County Food Hub has been operating a 40-bed low-barrier shelter at 232 N. Prince St. since relocating from Ebenezer Baptist Church last month. It has now committed to providing another 40 beds through March 31, the statement said.

Officials had previously indicated they were hoping to add beds at the site. There is plenty of room; and they have been unable to secure any alternative locations.

Adding capacity requires a larger staff, so a recruiting drive has been launched. (To see available jobs and apply, click here.) The expansion will be done in phases, as new hires become available to work shifts. The Food Hub is hopeful the first additional beds can be brought online as soon as Friday, Executive Director Paige McFarling said.

The Food Hub operates the shelter site under contract with the redevelopment authority, where the homelessness coalition is based.

The authority and coalition recently established a new fund, the Lancaster County Homelessness and Affordable Housing Fund, at the Lancaster County Community Foundation. That’s where people are being asked to donate on the shelter’s behalf.

The initial goal is $75,000, said Deb Jones, who leads the coalition as the authority’s director of Human Services.

The authority and coalition are funding the existing 40 beds and the upcoming ones under separate contracts. The former, considered an emergency low-barrier shelter, is reimbursed at $21 per bed-night. The new beds, categorized as “extended low-barrier shelter,” will be reimbursed at $26.40 per bed-night.

The authority pays for shelter services with federal and state grant funding. For the new beds, it will also be able to use the $800,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding that Lancaster’s City Council committed to the expansion in April, Jones said.

The Benjamin Roberts site costs $15,900 a month, not including the Food Hub’s management contract, according to figures presented to City Council.

Originally, the coalition had hoped to bring the 40 beds online by Dec. 1 at Otterbein United Methodist Church. However, the church needs renovations, including the addition of sprinklers, before it can host a shelter, officials say. The coalition now envisions having it ready a year from now, for the 2024-25 winter season.