Jonathan Fisher, 18, might be sitting in Panera Bread with his tablet, but he is one of the homeless that find shelter in State College Presbyterian Church at night.
Among his six siblings, Fisher said he was forced out of his parents’ house in Pottsville, Pa. because he was gay and what he calls “being a problem child” when he turned 18.
“I lived out in the streets in Pottsville for two weeks and this guy proposed to me and I moved up [to State College] with him,” Fisher said.
Between being forced out by the person who brought him to State College to staying in a group home for four months, he eventually found himself on the streets again, Fisher said.
Fisher heard about the “Out of the Cold: Centre County” initiative at State College and that is where he stays during the night.
With severely low temperatures hitting State College recently, a group of churches in the area have coordinated to provide temporary shelter and meals for the homeless at night, Mission Associate at the State College Presbyterian Church Kim Hunziker said.
The churches have come together to create “Out of the Cold: Centre County” to help those who have no place to turn in the nightly sub-zero temperatures, Hunziker said. Hunziker said she has seen an increase in the amount of homeless people in State College since 2010.
“The lack of affordable housing in the State College area and the bad economy probably put more people out of their homes,” Hunziker said.
State College Presbyterian Church, 132 W. Beaver Ave., can house up to seven homeless individuals a night and provides the accommodation from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. every night, Hunziker said.
“Students at Penn State should look into initiatives to provide housing for these people during the day […] or something more permanent,” Hunziker said.
The State College Police Department is working with the Community Help Centre, a volunteer based non-profit organization in State College, to identify and help homeless people get the information about the shelters, State College Police Capt. Matthew Wilson said.
“The number of homeless people needing shelter doesn’t really change based on the temperature,” Wilson said. “When we see someone who might need help, we give them the information to get in touch with the churches offering a place to stay.”
Housing Transition, Inc., 217 E. Nittany Ave., provides a more permanent solution to homelessness, Susanna Paul, development and community relations coordinator for Housing Transition, Inc. said.
“People stay here for a while until they are ready again,” Paul said. “Before they are allowed to stay, [the homeless individuals] agree to working with our services to gain some working experience and get back on their feet”