Here is my favorite homeless joke: A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. ‘’But why?’’ they asked. ‘’Because,’’ he said, ‘’I can’t stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer.’’

What’s funny about that joke? Not much. What did that joke have to do with being homeless? Absolutely nothing – but we all know that there is absolutely nothing funny or to joke about when it comes to being homeless.

During the winter of 2012-2013, the project’s inaugural year, Gettysburg C.A.R.E.S. provided a warm, safe place for the night for several dozen of our most challenged neighbors, nearly 20 of whom were children. This past year, 84 people, including 19 children, were served at the shelter.

While Gettysburg C.A.R.E.S. is an emergency shelter housed in local churches during the cold weather months, the need for shelter does not just disappear over the warm months. Herculean efforts are made by the staff to help those enrolled in the C.A.R.E.S. program obtain housing vouchers and find housing options. At the close of this winter season, however, there were 10 people with nowhere to go. Changes and cuts in funding for programs such as SCCAP and Survivors have created more havoc for people in this situation.

What can you do to help those in the situation? As a retired teacher, I believe that education is key.

If you were not one of the many people who read “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” by Matthew Desmond when it was featured in book groups and HACC Gettysburg this past spring, take a break from your usual summer leisure reading and read it. This book is about eviction and the side-effects that it can have on a person or community. It discusses, through the lives of real people, the emotional and far reaching impacts that eviction, which involves poverty and the loss of everything that a person once knew, can have. The book presents us with insights into the lives of those who have lost everything. It is written in an easy to read fashion.

@Home In Adams County, a relatively newly formed local non-profit, is focused on coordinating resources, advocating and developing solutions to the most complex issues facing Adams County residents: opportunities to live in safe, affordable housing, find sustainable employment and access viable transportation options. I am sure that you will be hearing more from them and the work they are doing. Check them out at www.homeinadamscounty.org.

As the advocacy director at YWCA Gettysburg & Adams County, I also believe that taking action is key to alleviating a problem.

There are several options for volunteering at Gettysburg C.A.R.E.S. including breakfast cooks, overnight volunteers, hosts at your church, blanket washers, mattress movers, and more.

And if you are short on time, check out the wish list at http://gettysburgcares.org/?page_id=67.

“There is a lot that happens around the world we cannot control. We cannot stop earthquakes, we cannot prevent droughts, and we cannot prevent all conflict, but when we know where the hungry, the homeless and the sick exist, then we can help.” (U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky)

Submitted on behalf of C.A.R.E.S. by Nancy Lilley.

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