Organizations look to upgrade winter homeless shelter

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LANCASTER, Pa. - Imagine being stuck in the cold, with your child, and thinking you have nowhere warm to sleep. It is a reality for women in Lancaster County. The YWCA Lancaster and the Lancaster County Council of Churches are working together to upgrade the existing winter shelter at the YWCA. The gym area, of the YWCA Lancaster, is used as the shelter for 120 winter nights. The windows are not winterized, there is a hole in the gym floor, three showers and many lockers do not work and the cots they use are about 10 years old.

The YWCA and the Council of Churches recently kicked off the one warm shelter campaign. They are looking to raise $60,000 to upgrade the facility.

"The overflow shelter is just really emergency because other emergency shelters, like at Water Street, are at capacity when the weather gets cold," said Jim Amstutz, Executive Direction of the Lancaster County Council of Churches.

"The program is really geared toward women and children who have no place else to stay," added Martha Harris, CEO YWCA Lancaster.

Women will be approved to stay on a weekly basis. There are about 46 spots and they can stay up to 120 nights.

" So, the women who are approved to stay on a weekly basis can come to the same place every night. It’s warm, it’s safe, it’s dry and it’s secure," said Harris.

" We give them a card with their name on it and a barecode. When they come and check-in they are already authorized for that week," said Amstutz.

Monday through Friday the women can go over to St. James Episcopal Church for a hot breakfast. Plus, breakfast, lunch and dinner can be found at churches throughout the city every day of the week.

The campaign is about three quarters of the way to their goal thanks, in part, to a $19,000 donation.

"Thank you Forest Path Foundation and everyone that’s followed their leading gift. It’s been a tremendous opportunity for the Lancaster Community to take care of some of its most needy citizens," said Harris.