Dangerous cold drives shelter over capacity

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Bethesda Mission in Harrisburg was over capacity on Wednesday and preparing for even more people as temperatures dipped into the single digits Wednesday night.

The shelter has 78 permanent beds, but officials anticipated more than 130 people would seek shelter at night.

"The fundamental objective is to get everybody off the street who wants to be off the street, because the weather is hazardous to life and limb," says executive director Chuck Wingate.

The Mission also suspended its normal rules because of the weather emergency, allowing people to stay inside during the day, in the library or chapel, watching TV.

Justin Lawrence was one of the men who took advantage. He lives in a campsite in the woods outside Harrisburg.

He normally sleeps in a full snow suit and his boots, with hand and toe warmers. But these frigid temps drove him inside.

"It's extremely cold my fingers are crying, but you know outside of that, doing alright," he said.

The Mission allows men to stay for longer periods in cold weather, but Lawrence has a plan for another day when he's back out on the streets, to keep warm.

"I'll probably go out to Walmart, because it's a good bus ride and the bus is warm," says Lawrence.

The Mission needs donations of blankets, cold weather clothing like gloves and long underwear, and nonperishable foods.

They accept money donations; officials expect their utility bill this month will top $10,000. Contact the shelter at (717) 257-4442.

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