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Elizabethtown College spearheads ECHOS to assist area homeless

Sep 30th, 2016 | By | Category: Features, Lead Article

From E-town NOW

This past summer, Elizabethtown College secured approval of a collective impact grant, the result of which offers a heartwarming opportunity to the College and community to fulfill the College motto of Educate for Service.

The grant, through Lancaster County Coalition to End Homelessness, made it possible for the College to spearhead E-town Community Housing and Outreach Services (ECHOS), which will assist individuals in the Elizabethtown area with housing needs and stability. Through the funds, the College employed two master’s level social workers — including Kim Grey ’09 — as housing and stability case managers. Staff members also will be hired to locate housing and coordinate the winter shelter and community day center

This winter marks the second year Elizabethtown will provide an emergency winter shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness in the community. Some of the displaced — from Elizabethtown, Bainbridge, Rheems — had lived in tents along Conoy Creek or in the dug-out at a nearby baseball field.

Last winter, 18 individuals were guests at the shelter from mid-December to mid-March. They were building their lives in Elizabethtown and preferred to stay in their community rather than seek emergency shelter in Lancaster – 24 miles away — or Harrisburg – 21 miles from E-town. Elizabethtown area is not immune to the national crisis of shortage in affordable housing. A team of community activists and College staff — some who assess need by canvasing the area at night by flashlight — recognized this need for additional services and applied for the funding to address issues of homelessness in an underserved area of the County.

ECHOS plans to partner with interns from the College’s Social Work department and Federal Work Study; occupational therapy students; the engineering, business and communications departments; and athletic clubs and student-directed learning communities, providing hands-on learning and engagement for students and faculty and staff members. This collaborative mission is a tangible representation of Educate for Service. ECHOS “is an exciting and worthy initiative … the best kind of partnership with the local community,” said President Carl Strikwerda.

Joining with the United Way–funded HUB – an alliance of support services for education, housing, food and counseling located in Elizabethtown – the relationship among 60 local service providers will be strengthened, creating a community safety net.

In addition to internships and work study, Elizabethtown College participates in other areas to meet the needs of clients. Students from the engineering department are upgrading an electronic wheelchair for a shelter client; the College bike club is fixing old bicycles to assist with transportation options for those who cannot afford a car; student-led groups are collecting toiletries for apartment move-ins; occupational therapy students are providing training to enhance skill sets; and social work interns and community-based learning teams add support.

To operate the winter shelter, set to open Nov. 28 as emergency living for community homeless at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 398 N. Locust St, in Elizabethtown, ECHOS needs 50 volunteers. There are three shifts: 6:30 to 9 p.m., 8:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., and 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. ECHOS encourages E-town students and faculty and staff members to consider dedicating some time to the endeavor.

In addition to shelter volunteers, ECHOS needs a volunteer transportation team to take clients to appointments, service meetings or stores; a moving team to assist clients as they relocate into area apartments; a mentoring team. ECHOS also needs furniture and clothing donations and shelter meals.

Volunteer training sessions are planned for 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, in Hoover 214, and Wednesday, Nov. 9, in Hoover 110. Additional training sessions are from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4; Sunday, Oct. 9; Wednesday, Oct. 12; and Monday, Oct. 17, at St. Paul’s. Training is mandatory for all volunteers. To register or for more information, contact Janice Davis, Winter Shelter Coordinator, at 717-475-1415 or

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