by COURTNEY HIGHFIELD, CBS 21 News, Thursday, May 4th 2017
HARRISBURG, Pa. — CBS 21 first reported in January about a tent encampment for homeless people set up outside of Market Square Presbyterian Church in Harrisburg. The tenants and city agreed the tent city would be gone by this week.
In January, the sidewalk space around the church was filled but as of May 4th only a few tents remained. The bigger problem, though, of homelessness remains. People inside and outside the church are now working on that.
Rev. Thomas Sweet, one of the pastors at the church, says people have been sleeping outside of the church for years. The only difference this year was the tents.
“A tent community arose and they were really self-governing,” said Sweet.
The church says the tent city made them want to be a part of the solution when it came to homelessness so they started a new committee aimed at tackling the issue.
A local shelter, Bethesda Mission, says the existing agencies can use all the help they can get.
Bill Christian with the Bethesda Mission told CBS 21, “I came here back in 2001 and our summer numbers would be 55, 45 or 55. We’re at 75-100 all the time now in the winter it’s like 130-140.”
He says they’ve been at capacity for several years now.
“The need is greater than the resources right now,” said Christian.
But he and the church are hopeful that together they can get people off the streets and into a home.
“The primary goal is to help people to find permanent shelters,” said Sweet.
The church says they’re not sure if they’ll put the tents back up next year.
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