Women’s Shelter at Water Street Mission

Coming to Water Street is about more than just temporary shelter. Whether you stay three weeks in our shelter track or three months in our residential program, we want to help you find the right path moving forward. No more spinning wheels or treading water, let’s find solutions that will last!

A loving environment

For us, the key ingredient is creating an atmosphere where guests feel welcomed and loved. Homelessness is a traumatic experience, and one few people can walk through alone. As a community, we want to support and lift one another up – because each of us is incredibly loved and valued as children of God. 

What about Kids on Campus?

At Water Street, we typically have around 50 children on campus at any given moment. We aim to support parenthood, and help each mom feel fully equipped as they raise their children. Families always stay in our family-sized dorm rooms, and have access to our children’s ministry and child support staff. We work to accommodate the best living situation for each case, to help families in this time of transition. To find out if our program would be a good fit for you and your family, be sure to call 2-1-1 and they can talk you through your options. 

Going “Upstairs”: The Residential Program

If you’ve visited Water Street, you may have heard some of the guests talk about going “Upstairs.” When you hear guests talk of upstairs, what they really mean is the Residential Program. (It just gathers on the 2nd and third floors of Kuhns hall!)

For many women, the residential program is where they really hit their stride. Looking back on their time here, they often say joining the residential program was one of the best decisions they could have made. 

“If I hadn’t come to Water Street, I probably wouldn’t have opened my heart back up to God. I’d be working at dead-end jobs…still struggling being a single parent.”

Jennifer, WSM Guest

So why is there so much talk of going upstairs

The residential program is targeted and tailored to each woman. You make your own action plan, and work towards finding the right solutions for you and your family. With the support of staff, you’ll access local resources, and tools to help you dig deeper. But in the end, it’s all about helping you meet your own unique goals.

Many women say the residential program helped them: 

  • Find more fulfilling work 
  • Build deeper and better community
  • Take a time out so they can find a stronger sense of peace 
  • Overcome anxiety and depression
  • Connect more deeply with God
  • Find parental resources for their children
  • Be better off financially 

Call 2-1-1

Whatever your goals are, it never hurts to give it a try, and see what God has in store for you! If you are a woman experiencing homelessness in Lancaster County, please call 2-1-1 to get connected to resources. You can learn more about our residential and shelter tracks here!


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