8 Things to Know about Water Street Mission’s Emergency Shelter

For many individuals struggling with homelessness, a hot meal and a safe place to sleep are the first steps to finding a better path forward. At Water Street Mission, we believe in supporting men and women experiencing homelessness in our community by equipping them with the tools and mindsets that will help them grow and achieve their goals.

If you’re unfamiliar with our emergency shelter, here are 8 things you should know!

Right in your neighborhood

Water Street Mission serves Lancaster and neighbors who are experiencing homelessness. But when we say “neighborhood” that doesn’t just mean Lancaster city, in fact, approximately 60% of our guests come from Lancaster’s surrounding counties.

More than a meal and shelter

If you are experiencing homelessness, we can offer you a hot meal, and a safe place to stay, but we want you to know that we are much more than a meal and shelter. Here, you’ll have access to many resources and staff who want to help you take that next step in the right direction.

Each Guest is an Individual

Every person’s story is unique. We want to get to know yours, and care for you as the unique person God made you. When you come to Water Street Mission, we want to take the time to hear from you and find out what YOU need. How can we best help you meet your goals?

Loving Conduct over Strict Rules

Like any shelter, Water Street Mission has rules. But just as the old saying goes, our guiding principle is often “No Law but Love, no Creed but Christ.” What that means is we know from time to time our rules don’t cover certain circumstances. We take time to pray and review, so we can use wisdom, and make fair decisions to the best of our ability. 

Dignity in Relationships

Truly, we are all about community. Just as we want our facilities to be well designed, we put just as much thought into how we can care for you one-on-one! Our staff want to get to know you, and help you meet your goals in whatever way they can. You’ll get your own Life Coach, and work with Case managers who will help you make sure you have what you need during this time. 

Dignity in Design

Made in God’s image, we believe each person has inherent dignity and value, loved by an awesome creator God. God believes in you, and so do we. Which is why we designed our facilities to be hope-filled and welcoming. Our Emergency shelter was created to meet high standards of hospitality, and we hope you know that we are constantly thinking about how to make you feel safe and cared for.  

Special Features

Providence Emergency shelter has several special features that help give guests peace of mind during their stay. Each guest has access to a lock box, where they can charge devices without worry. We have two Respite Rooms, which allow guests with 3rd or late night shifts to have a space to wind-down without disturbing other sleeping guests. We also have improved lighting, air flow, and much more space between beds so guests have more elbow room. 

Loved by our Community

We are surrounded by so many in our community who are praying and rooting for men and women struggling with homelessness! Providence Emergency Shelter was made with the support of the Lancaster community, and the many organizations, businesses, and individuals who want to show how much they care! 

Interested in our Emergency Shelter for you or someone you know? Contact us today to learn more!


An Update from Jack 5/4/2020


Dear Friends,

Throughout this season, we have encountered a number of challenges in operating our shelter safely. Thankfully we have been blessed to see no community spread among our guests. This is due not only to the work of our team, but also the ways that upgrades to our facilities came at just the right time.

For example, Providence Shelter, which opened in November 2019, provides additional spacing and a top-tier air filtration system. We have also been able to implement the same air filtration standards in our dining hall prior to the most recent wave of COVID.

Because a high percentage of our guests have preexisting health conditions, we have had to be diligent in our safety protocols, doing our best to ensure their safety. For us that has included implanting all CDC disinfecting, masking and social distancing from the very beginning. This has led to major changes in roles and responsibilities of staff. Staff have taken over disinfecting in shifts all over campus. They have also delivered much of our support services and programs through zoom, hosting counseling sessions and classes virtually and meeting in-person with plexi-glass dividers only when necessary.

For meals, we’ve changed preparation and delivery to help minimize interaction of guests who live in different facilities. At times that has meant delivering meals to certain Residential Floors so we can keep smaller groups in the dining hall. We have also had to restrict guests’ travel on and off campus to only essential trips such as going to work, the doctors, shopping etc., in order to minimize unnecessary exposure.

Another change in this season has been how we do intakes. Currently, the intake process requires new guests to be tested for COVID-19. They await their test results in a separate temporary shelter we have set up, before entering Providence Emergency Shelter.

All of these changes have been made while severely limiting the number of volunteers on campus. At one point, all volunteering was completely put on hold. Now, we are running with a third of our normal volunteers.

And it’s been tiring, for both staff and guests. We have had times where many staff were working remotely due to their own health risks. Other times where staff or guests have been quarantined due to exposures. But even with all of the schedule changes, increased overtime, and cross-shift working, our team has done an amazing job persevering through all of the challenges.

What to Expect This Winter Typically we have over 200 total guests on campus, over 100 in our Residential Programs over and 100 in our Emergency Shelters. Although our Residential capacity remains about the same, we have had to reduce the available beds in Providence Shelter to ensure safe spacing overnight from about 75 to 55.

Winter always presents its own challenges, so we anticipate this year will be no different. Women in our Providence Shelter have moved over to the shelter at St. Mary’s across the street, run by the Lancaster Food Hub. During their stay there they have full access to all of our services, including showers, food and staff support. Not only does having women shift to St. Mary’s enable us to free up additional beds for men, it will help us keep the shelter populations separate and limit the risk of spread.

Thank You We have been so encouraged by the support we have received this year. Without a community coming around us and our guests, we would not be able to keep our guests safe and continue to guide them in their restoration journeys. We truly couldn’t do what we do without you.

Jack Crowley