Nonprofit group seeks new location for day shelter for homeless

After renting from Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, 1101 Washington Blvd., since 2010, Family Promise of Lycoming County needs a new home for its day center.

“The church has blessed us with what they’ve offered for the last two years,” said Melissa Magargle, executive director. “But now we’re on a tight schedule to relocate.”

Family Promise had been renting the church parsonage, which was vacant, for only $1 per year for the last two years. Now, a new pastor is moving into the parsonage on March 1, giving Family Promise a short deadline to find a new location.

The search began immediately after the church notified the center on Dec. 31, Magargle said, but nothing permanent has been found yet.

“We’d love to have everything set up a few weeks before we move out, with phone lines working and offices in order, but that’s a long shot at this point,” she said.

Family Promise is a nonprofit organization with 183 affiliates nationwide, providing provide food, shelter and support services for homeless families.

The day center is “one of the most important pieces of the puzzle,” Magargle said, adding that it offers clients a place to shower, do laundry, meet with caseworkers and pursue employment or education opportunities. Volunteers also provide child care, help children with homework and offer specialized help in areas such as resume writing or financial counseling.

It’s especially important to offer services during the day, Magargle said. Although Family Promise has 13 participating churches, with hosting of families rotating between them weekly, those churches only can offer dinner services and a place to sleep. By operating from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., the center can occupy the daytime hours for a homeless family who might otherwise have no place to go.

Magargle admits she is concerned about finding a new, hopefully, permanent home for the center in such a short amount of time, especially one that is affordable. Even though everything in use at the center has been donated – from laundry detergent to shampoo to bedding – and it operates at roughly one-third the cost of most shelters, finding a place that is affordable is crucial.

“Paying rent was never written into our budget because of what the church offered,” Magargle said, “so the budget might change dramatically, depending on what we find.”

She added that the organization gets all of its funding from what the participating churches and corporate or individual donors provide.

“We get no federal funding and we’re not part of United Way, so we really just get what the community gives us,” she said.

The board of directors will meet within the next two weeks to discuss any immediately available locations. They also may discuss the possibility of a capital campaign that would raise money to either rent a space long-term or build one, Magargle said.

Several ideas have been proposed for interim locations, she said, including the rectory of the Mater Dolorosa Church, 635 Hepburn St., which had been discussed as a possible expansion site of the center in 2013.

“That’s a wonderful option, one we will definitely explore,” she said.

Margargle remains hopeful that the right opportunity will present itself.

“In an ideal world, someone would come to us and say, ‘I have this house that I want to donate to you,’ and then it would be ours,” she said. “We would love to have something that is ours.”