Winter heating bills put programs at risk at York homeless shelter

YORK, Pa. -- One York County shelter sees its heating bill skyrocket during the winter months, and the current cold weather could put the other services the shelter provides on ice.

The high cost of heating our homes is something many think about before turning up the thermostat this time of year. For some, that also means cutting back on other expenses during the winter.

Many may be nervous to receive the heating bill this time of year, but for LifePath Christian Ministries, which relies on donations, heating is its biggest expense during these cold winter months.

A recent drop in temperatures has many who are homeless seeking a warm place to sleep. In York, some find temporary shelter at LifePath Christian Ministries, which has about 20 beds for the taking.

LifePath Christian Ministries, life skills director Scott Beattie said "when it's cold weather, we don't cap how many people can come in. So, we'll be looking at a two-to-threefold increase, somewhere around the 40, 60 range, just depending on the need for the night."

Formerly known as the York Rescue Mission, LifePath not only offers a place for some to lay their head at night, but it also helps give those in need the necessary tools to get back on their feet.

"We work with them on financial literacy, we work with them on job resumes, applications, how to do an interview. We work with them on multiple levels," Beattie said.

With a heating bill that averages between $7,000 and $8,000 a month, Beattie is concerned that LifePath's boilers could put some of those programs on ice.

"That pulls away funds that we can use for other programming, so it makes it harder for us to be able to use that funding to beef up programs," Beattie said.

"Every dollar that's going out for utilities is one less dollar that we can utilize for the community to help the individuals that need our support," Beattie added.

Meanwhile, the staff at LifePath try to stretch the dollars they have by winterizing the building, making meals last longer, and wearing sweaters and coats inside.

"We try to watch what temperature we keep our thermostat at, so although we want it to be nice and warm in here, we can't have it quite as warm as we'd like it, because we need to watch the bills that go along with that," Beattie said.

LifePath relies on donations to keep it going, but in addition to monetary donations, other donations of items such as blankets and even toilet tissue help them save money for heating expenses.