Homeless shelter group gets greenlight from city

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By Johnathan Ryan

The group working to organize a homeless shelter network here has been given the greenlight to use a building on Arch Street as a day center.

The Lancaster Board of Zoning Appeals on April 21 unanimously approved a special exception request to allow a day facility at the building, a former day-care center, at 304 E. Arch St.

Bill Hutchinson, lead organizer of a group looking to start a network of shelters in Lancaster County under the auspices of Interfaith Hospitality Network, said the appeals board had asked for more information in March when the request for the zoning exception was first made. The board wanted to know who owns the building and criteria to be used on who is admitted into the shelter program.

The shelter program will be restricted to homeless parents whose children are staying with them.

The day center will be where the executive director of the local networks of shelters will work, as well as where adult shelterees and their non-school age children spend daytime hours when they can't be at the church providing shelter that week.

Adults will look for jobs and receive advice on how to improve their state of living from the director and case workers while at the center during the day.

Homeless people will not spend the night at the center. They will stay at churches that participate in the homeless shelter network.

Seven local churches have already agreed to participate in the program and more are being sought.

One good thing about the building is that a lot of basics are in place since it was once a day care. There are bathrooms, a kitchen and a fenced-in play area.

But remodeling work is needed to the roughly 2,000-square-foot building.

Volunteers from Covenant Baptist Church, led by construction experts Jeff Hudson and Chad Catledge, worked on the building one day recently.

Hudson bought the building specifically for Christian ministry under a limited-liability corporation.

With the planned Interfaith Hospitality Network day center, people will be given a "hand to get them back in the groove," Hudson said.

Hutchinson said organizers need donated labor and materials.

Right now, organizers have less than $10,000 in their budget.

If you're interested in volunteering or donating to the project, you may call Hutchinson at 285-0301.