Homeless stay at ‘tent city’ encampment outside Harrisburg church

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Shelters in the Midstate say they’re serving more homeless people and are often over capacity. It’s getting harder to keep up with the lack of space. A church in Harrisburg has found a unique solution in the form of a ‘tent city.’

“Cold. Wind. Rain. The wind gets really bad,” said Matt Smith, who stays at the tent city encampment.

Those are some of the elements the homeless have to deal with.

“The homeless have no where else to go on the streets of Harrisburg,” Smith said.

Market Square Presbyterian Church is trying to change that. About 20 to 25 people stay outside on the church’s property in the encampment.

“We believe that the church is a sanctuary and a safe place, so when the guys asked if they could stay and if it would be allowed for them to be there, we said, ‘Yes, that’s absolutely fine as long as you respect one another, you respect our space, and you respect the community of which you’re apart, which is this general area,'” said Kelly Wiant, associate pastor at Market Square Presbyterian Church.

“Before we had the tents, there was people actually sleeping on the sidewalks, up against the building, with blankets and sleeping bags and what not, just trying to stay warm,” Smith said.

Smith is one of the people staying at tent city for the winter. Some of the homeless population gathered there after being asked to leave other encampments.

Another ministry provided the tents. The entire community is now coming together to help the less fortunate.

“There’s churches that feed us,” Smith said. “There’s people that come down through all the time offering blankets and what not.”

“I would probably be where I was before I came here on the Market Street Bridge, out in the open in a sleeping bag or a blanket. That’s what I was dealing with,” said Jeff Houser, who’s staying at tent city.

The church needs help to care for the people staying in those tents. For more information on how to help, you can call the church at (717) 257-1270.

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