St. James Church in Lancaster opens doors as warming station

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The frigid temperatures that have gripped our region are dangerous, more than any person could, or should have to experience. St. James Episcopal Church in Lancaster is making sure people have somewhere to go to get out of the cold and even get a hot meal.

John Duncan knows what it’s like to sleep out in freezing temperatures, spend 24 hours outside and face the dangers of the bitter cold.

“You can come down with pneumonia, or you can come down, get frostbitten, lose limbs,” he said.

But between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. inside St. James Episcopal Church at 119 North Duke Street, he and others have a place to get some quiet relief and warm the chill in their bones.

“This is my second winter out here, in the wintertime and it’s no picnic,” Duncan said.

The church is coordinating with other agencies in Lancaster to make sure there isn’t a gap in the day where people have nowhere to escape the cold. When the overnight shelters close up in the morning, the warming station opens up.

“We have it available, why not, open it up?” said Leigh Kaliss, director of Anchorage Ministries, which serves a hot breakfast Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. from the church dining room. “Open the doors, do some good. Get some people warm, get them off of the streets, get them safe.”

Though sometimes he doesn’t know where he’ll spend the night, Duncan is grateful he doesn’t have to spend the day outside.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing,” Duncan said. “At least you can come in here and stay warm for a period of time. If we didn’t have these places open, there would be no place to go.”

Staff members plan to keep the warming station open for as long as temperatures are below freezing.

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