An Adams County housing services walk through the Gettysburg historic district Thursday introduced a group of interested residents to current services for unhoused and displaced persons, as well as those seeking refuge from violence and abuse.
The walk was sponsored by South Central Community Action Programs (SCCAP), @Home in Adams County, Gettysburg Combined Area Resources for Emergency Shelter (CARES), the Adams Rescue Mission (ARM), and YWCA Hanover Safe Homes.
While the organizational representatives praised the Adams County Community for their generosity and volunteer spirit, they also agreed that keeping the facilities open is an ongoing process. During the 2022 Adams County Giving Spree, the organizations together received about $317,000 in donations, with the more significant donations going to SCCAP and ARM.
@Home in Adams County
The @Home in Adams County initiative was formed in 2019 to find solutions to the issues of severe housing shortages, transportation shortfalls, and stagnant wages across Adams County. During the past four years, @Home task forces have explored shared housing initiatives for populations within the 55-plus range, discussed alternative types of housing such as co-op modular homes or higher-density housing, worked with employers on livable wages, and engaged organizations, businesses, and community members to seek solutions for affordable living. A transportation task force reviews alternative transportation ideas, and the @Home advocacy group continues to recruit members for the coalition.
SCCAP Housing Shelter
SCCAP serves both Adams and Franklin Counties, providing health, nutrition, education, and employment resources, as well as family and asset development programs aimed at ending poverty. The shelter, located on the SCCAP campus on Water St, can house 20 to 32 people and offer services to help residents find and maintain safe and affordable housing. The team works with families to develop budgets and make appointments with doctors, counselors, recovery specialists, and school systems.
The shelter, created from a former warehouse, has seven bedrooms that can each accommodate up to four people, a shared living space, dining space, kitchen, children’s play space, and bathrooms.
“There are many reasons to come here; it is not just adversity-driven,” said SCCAP CEO Megan Shreve. “People are feeling hopeless. We want to restore that hope.” Acknowledging that 50 percent of their residents are children, Shelter Coordinator Sharon Groft said seven babies have been born to shelter residents in the past year.
Homeless Center occupants are also aided in applying for benefits such as SNAP, Medicaid, Social Security Cards, birth certificates, and Social Security Disability. The staff assists with job referrals and transportation solutions. The average length of stay is 46 days but varies according to the family’s needs. Stays are usually longer if the clients are on a fixed income, have larger families, or need a housing subsidy voucher. While the residents actively work on their goals, they can stay as long as necessary.
The cost of operating the shelter is more than $370,000 annually and covers 24-hour staffing, salaries and benefits, utilities, maintenance, and operating costs. Even with income from grants, state funding, and donations, the shelter realizes a more than $100,000 annual shortfall.
Thanks to an Adams Response and Recovery Fund (ARRF) of $368,000, the CARES shelter, which can house up to 30 overnight guests, will now be housed at one location – the third floor of St. James Lutheran Church. “We are so excited for this year,” said CARES director Debi Little. “It will be nice that people won’t have to move every two weeks. CARES is the last place before a lot of people are sleeping in tents, cars, or on the street.” Little said she would love to see the shelter, currently open from mid-October until April, become a year-round program someday.
In past years, the shelter was hosted by fourteen participating churches, which took turns as the hosting site for two weeks.
CARES coordinates with the Slentz House, a daily resource center open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CARES guests must pass a police warrant check and will not be accepted if they have a history of violence or sexual offenses. They must have sufficient mobility to climb steps. Blankets and sleeping mats are provided with separate areas for women, men, and families. Breakfast is served next door to the Gettysburg CARES office. Lunch is available at the soup kitchen at 22 W. High Street, and Slentz House resource center volunteers offer a dinner option. “Now that we have released the Covid vaccination requirement, I think we will be very busy this year,” said Little.
Gettysburg CARES is a non-profit corporation run by a program director, part-time staff, and volunteers. Little said 200 to 300 volunteers help keep the program operational, including two who spend the night.
Financial donations and supplies such as toilet paper, paper products, and garbage bags are always welcome. For more information, please go to gettysburgcares.org.
Located at the Adams County Rescue Mission (ACRM) on York Rd., Agape House is a Christian shelter with self-contained, furnished, one and two-bedroom apartments. It is open to single parents with up to four children, low-income families, welfare recipients, victims of abuse, and those who suffer from a dual diagnosis of substance abuse and mental health issues.
“They don’t turn anyone away,” said an Agape House spokesman, commenting on a current apartment housing a single father with four children. J. Punchald, an Agape staff member, said, “Homelessness wears a lot of faces. The more stories we share about these people, the more we dispel the myths associated.”
A 10-phase plan, including a personalized program, helps the residents find employment, housing, childcare, and educational resources. Trained counselors and a life skills coach assist participants with their goals.
ACRM also offers a men’s shelter with 30 beds, a thrift store and recycling center, and a garden center. They accept donations of all kinds, including financial, clothing, household items, furniture, food, vehicles, and recyclable items. The mission receives no government funding.
YWCA Safe Home of Adams County
The Gettysburg branch of the YWCA Hanover Safe Home provides trauma-informed, victim-centered services by offering emergency shelter services to victims of domestic violence who are fleeing abuse. It provides transportation to the shelter, access to an emergency pantry for food and personal care items, and emergency financial assistance for immediate needs, such as clothing and cell phones. Safe Home coordinates with two housing programs to assist with transitioning shelter residents to a permanent housing solution.
The Safe Home program was developed in 1981 by the YWCA Hanover, a non-profit organization serving Hanover and all of Adams County. It offers a 24-hour hotline, crisis response and medical accompaniment, case management, training, education, legal advocacy, emergency safe housing, and referrals to local shelters. Shelters such as this one served 90,000 PA residents in 2022.
Donations for area Homeless Shelters can be provided during the Adams County Community Foundation Giving Spree. In addition to 100 nonprofit organizations listed on the donation form, gifts can also be made to any Community Foundations fund. For more information, including the LIVE! Event at Gettysburg Area Middle School, visit www.ACCFGivingSpree.org.
Judith Cameron Seniura is a freelance reporter. She began her journalism career in the early ‘70s and has written for newspapers, magazines, and other media in Ontario, Canada, Alaska, Michigan, Nebraska, San Antonio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.