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Carlisle's Stuart Community Center being used as shelter for homeless during pandemic
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Carlisle's Stuart Community Center being used as shelter for homeless during pandemic

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Stuart Community Center

The Stuart Community Center on Franklin Street in Carlisle is closed until Jan. 4.

Community CARES and the Carlisle Borough government have transitioned the Stuart Community Center into a temporary shelter for the homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic, the borough said Friday.

CARES, which normally coordinates sheltering the Cumberland County region’s homeless population at multiple area churches and charitable organizations, encountered difficulty with COVID-19 guidelines suggesting that homeless clients should be in one place, according to the borough.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that clients at shelters be screened at a central point for COVID-19 symptoms to avoid outbreaks among the homeless.

“What began as a call for a portable handwashing station installation at CARES to assist with hygiene needs due to the pandemic grew into a more in-depth conversation on the homeless community’s lack of access to hygiene and social distancing issues within the CARES facility”, Carlisle Borough Manager Susan Armstrong said in a press release Friday.

CARES residents were housed by the American Legion as an interim solution, and at the Stuart center at 415 Franklin St. starting on April 8.

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“We needed space for sleeping quarters, bathroom and shower facilities, and an area for cooking. The Stuart Community Center checked off all the boxes. We are extremely grateful to the Carlisle Borough and to the community as a whole for assisting in this collaborative effort,” CARES Executive Director Beth Kempf said in a news release.

In addition to housing at the Stuart center, a “comfort center tent” will be available 24/7 in the CARES Resource Center parking lot at 50 West Penn St. for those who continue to live without shelter or access to hygiene facilities.

Water, snacks, toiletries and towels will be available at the tent, as well as showers by appointment from Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon. Social distancing will be enforced.

To reserve a time slot for a shower, call 717-249-1009 and select option three. The same number can also be used for inquiries about services or to donate money or food. Donated supplies can also be dropped off at the Stuart Community Center.

Carlisle Mayor Tim Scott thanked borough staff, particularly Jeff Snyder, the borough’s fire chief and emergency management coordinator, for securing cots and other supplies to set up the shelter at the Stuart center, and for coordinating the temporary relocation of the borough’s Parks and Recreation Department from its offices at the center to borough hall.

“We have a moral obligation to meet the needs of this vulnerable part of our community,” Carlisle Deputy Mayor Sean Schultz said in the news release. “Due to the community center being underutilized at this time, the decision to provide temporary shelter to those in need made perfect sense.”

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