More than 260 people lined up for the inaugural “Run for Shelter” 5K early Saturday morning in front of the Centre House Homeless shelter in State College.
The house stood as a reminder to the racers why they were there. Money from the race went to benefit the shelter, located at 217 Nittany Ave., a program operated by Housing Transitions, Executive Director Ron Quinn said. Housing Transitions is a non-profit group that works to prevent homelessness.
Quinn said the shelter has been open since 1984 and houses men, women and families who are facing homelessness. He said the shelter can house up to 15 people at a time, and last year it served 66 people.
Recent events have made the need for homeless housing increase in the county, Quinn said.
“I think that the closing of the two mobile home parks and the Hotel Do De fire have put homeless on the forefront,” Quinn said.
One resident at Centre House, Jeff Harpster, ran in the race Saturday. Harpster said he was living at the Hotel Do De in nearby Bellefonte and had to scramble to find a place to stay afterward.
“I remember sitting outside watching the fire,” Harpster said. “I knew it was going to be difficult finding a place to stay. It was going to be a rough couple of months.”
Harpster said it was a struggle to find housing because most places did not have leases starting in October. He moved into Centre House last week and said things have been looking up since.
“It’s a nice place to stay. They feed you and try to help you get housing,” Harpster said. “Everyone here is nice and helpful.”
State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham participated in the race and sent the runners off with a message stating how important the shelter is.
“Housing Transitions has been able to make a significant impact on the quality of life in this community,” Goreham said.
After the race, Goreham said it was a positive event, and she was glad to support an organization with people that make the community stronger.
Participants included a large group of students form Mount Nittany Middle School, including Jack Mangene, 12, of Boalsburg, who said it was a fun race that really pushed him.
“There are so many people who don’t have homes right now and need help. It is not a situation I would want to put myself in without help,” Mangene said. “This race goes for a good cause.”