The WellSpan Spotlight

Health and wellness

A warm place, a new start: WellSpan supports community emergency shelters

A warm place, a new start: WellSpan supports community emergency shelters

The bedrooms have bunk beds, topped by neatly folded blankets. There is a bathroom and shower here, as well as laundry facilities. There is a dining room, where dinner and breakfast are served. 

This two-story brick house in Ephrata is a warm oasis for people who are homeless during the winter months. Run by Good Samaritan Services, the emergency shelter has received $35,000 in WellSpan community partnership grants over the past two years. 

"It really helps people," says a New Holland resident, who lived in the shelter last winter after he and his wife separated, and he lost his home and his job. "There is a genuine sense of care when you go in. The staff was concerned about what I was going through and tried to provide resources to help me." 

Strengthening communities is the purpose of the grants that WellSpan provides to emergency shelters run by community partners across its system, support that totals about $100,000 each year. The funds benefit organizations that offer shelter, food support, street outreach, and other services, including LifePath Ministries and Friends and Neighbors of PA, both in York; Gettysburg C.A.R.E.S and South Central Community Action Program, in Gettysburg and Chambersburg; and Lebanon County Christian Ministries. 

"We know that reliable housing and food are cornerstones to a healthy life," says Ann Kunkel, WellSpan vice president of community health and engagement. "WellSpan is committed to working with our community partners who are doing the vital work to help all our neighbors thrive." 

In Ephrata, Good Samaritan Services provides an emergency shelter from December until March 15. The agency also provides residential housing and resources such as financial stability and personal development support, to help people transition out of homelessness. 

"A warm bed in a house is something we all take for granted but something that not everyone has," says Nate Hoffer, Good Samaritan Services chief executive officer. "Any time we can prevent someone from being alone, outside, that's worth celebrating." 

And it turns out that a bed in a warm house becomes more than just a place to stay. 

"Once people find us, we kind of become their family," Hoffer says. "Our goal is to help people secure housing and get into a place of their own. We can establish a relationship, which is important to build rapport and trust." 

The very first night the emergency shelter opened in 2020, the first man to come in the door was a veteran who had been living in his car. He was wary of accepting help. The shelter staff got to know him and connected him to veterans housing, something he did not know how to access, and he eventually reunited with his family. 

"We were all so happy and proud of him," Hoffer says. 

The shelter has provided a home for almost 50 people so far this year, including one man who got a ride there from a former resident, the man who lives in New Holland now. 

"He came into where I was working, looking to get warm," the man said. "I said, 'I got a place where they have a bed, you can get some sleep, you can be comfortable, you can get some food. This is where I was last year at this time. They will treat you well and help you.' " 

Want to learn more about WellSpan's support of community partners?  Go here