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Heart for Homeless resource center to open in State College

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Posted: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 12:00 am

When Heart for Homeless was founded five years ago, the focus was to provide blankets and coats for those in need. Then, the focus expanded to backpack drives to provide assistance for the unsheltered.

This month, the foundation plans to open a daytime resource center, also called Heart for Homeless, at 100 Fraser Street. The future site is located beneath Dunkin’ Donuts , 200 W. College Ave.

The center is tentatively set to open next week and it would “definitely” be open by the end of November, Ginny Poorman, the founder and director of Heart for Homeless, said.

The resource center would meet several needs by providing people with a place to go during the day and other services to work toward permanent solutions, Poorman said.

“We mainly want to focus on resumes and GEDs, job placement, housing and health care,” Poorman said. “Our focus is to get our clients out of the shelters and the Out of the Cold program.”

The Out of the Cold: Centre County program provides the homeless with a place to stay and a warm meal in the evenings in the colder months of the year, from late October through April, Kendra Gettig, who works for Calvary Church, said.

The Heart for Homeless resource center will serve as a middle ground for landlords, employers and clients, and wants to bring law enforcement, first responders, local government and other organizations together on the same page, Eric Wagner , president of the board of directors of Heart for Homeless, said.

The manager of Dunkin’ Donuts, Christy Ray, said a daytime resource center for the homeless is needed, but feels the location is not an “ideal place.”

“I think they need someplace that’s bigger and could offer more services,” Ray said.

Ray said homelessness in State College affects her business and that the homeless population frequent her stores. She said that is not something she wants to present to her customers.

“I feel bad for them and I wish I could do something for them, but as a manager of a business, I can’t,” Ray said. “I can’t allow them to hang out there, because I have to present a certain face and certain standards for the business and what people want to see.”

Wagner said that a resource center would be beneficial not only to his clients, but also to the community as a whole.

“No one wants to see the homeless on the street in front of their business and that’s a reality of it,” Wagner said. “Getting our clients off the street and back on the right track is our goal.”

Other organizations that assist the homeless of State College and Centre County see the daytime center as filling unmet needs for the homeless in the community.

Housing Transitions, Inc., is the organization that operates Centre House, an emergency shelter in State College.

In addition to Centre House, Housing Transitions, Inc. has case managers that work with those in need of affordable housing, those in danger of becoming homeless and also with those with mental health and substance abuse issues, Ron Quinn, executive director of Housing Transitions, Inc., said.

Quinn said, however, that not everyone wishes to remain at Centre House and other people cannot because of guidelines.

“There are some people that don’t wish to stay in a shelter and I think Heart for Homeless fills a need that’s in the community,” Quinn said.

Gettig said a daytime resource center would be beneficial for the unsheltered homeless in State College. Gettig is also involved with the local Out of the Cold program.

Ten local churches host the program for two-week periods of time and the homeless can stay from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., but then must leave because the churches are used for other purposes. Gettig said the daytime center would give them a place to go during the day and more.

“Out of the Cold program is used just for shelter, but the new resource center would help them with more permanent goals like housing and a job. It would help them with goals that Out of the Cold can’t help them with,” Gettig said.

Most of the costs of the resource center will be covered by private donations, and Poorman said the foundation would apply for grants if needed.

But, Heart for Homeless plans to start fundraising and all services will be provided on a volunteer basis, Poorman said.

“I’ve learned over the past five years that this is a really generous community,” Poorman said.

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