Residential Programs

Building the tools to overcome homelessness and create a hope-filled future.

Overcoming Homelessness

A Caring, Personalized Approach

Experiencing homelessness is traumatic, which is why we go out of our way to meet each person with dignity and love. We provide a safe and healing environment where guests can feel free to open up. In that process, we offer personalized programs and coaching for men and women who are ready to commit to transformation. 

We create a space to share the life-changing news of the gospel and work with individuals to assist them in reaching their goals. While we help each person move past their season of homelessness, we also address deeper needs that will set them on a path of restoration, a path that will carry them throughout their lives.  

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Key Elements

Guests who choose to enter our Residential Program are first connected to a Case Manager and Life Coach in our Residential ministry. They help each person take a self-assessment, discover areas of growth and learn how our services can best help. But one of the most important jobs of our staff is to create an atmosphere of support and love. 

We want each guest to know they are in a safe environment, and one where they can open up, experience grace, and begin to prepare for a fuller life ahead of them. 

Guests in Our Residential Program Gain Access to Many Resources:

The Whole Person

At Water Street, we believe that we each need so much more than just food and shelter. We are “whole” people made up of many interconnected parts.

If you struggle with your mental health, it may affect your ability to perform at work. Conversely, negative work environments could make fleeing stress and bad habits even harder. We work with each person to address every area of their lives so they can feel wholly restored.

At the center of it all is our spiritual health. We all have deep core needs for things like meaning, purpose, belonging, and love. In addition to counseling in all seven other areas, we have specific programming that allows guests to explore how God answers these big questions and meets our key needs. 

Whole Person Model
“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, Water Street Guest

Children's Ministry

Our Children’s Ministry provides a safe, fun space for children in families in our Residential Program. Kids will find help with homework, lessons focused on understanding the character of God, plus crafts and playtime.

 It’s a place for a kid to be a kid during what might be a challenging season of life.

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Tanya's* Story

When Tanya* came to the Children’s Ministry at Water Street, Miss Ginger prayed about how to handle her. She would kick and hit her mom, refusing to obey. She wouldn’t receive compliments the staff would try to give her but hang her head low. “I was feeling discouraged one day and asked for prayer from a coworker,” Miss Ginger shared.

She knew the days were busy and chaotic and wanted to make sure that the spiritual time was also occurring. That same day, Tanya came up to Miss Ginger and said, “Miss Ginger, will you read me a story about Jesus?” and pointed to the children’s Bible. “This little girl has grown in leaps and bounds!” Miss Ginger proclaimed. Obviously, the spiritually important items were still happening and sinking in.

Tanya’s mom was experiencing back pain, and Tanya suggested they pray and ask Jesus to heal it. She told her mom she wasn’t sure how to pray, and her mom helped lead her in a prayer for healing, even though they didn’t have any Christian background. Tanya’s mom now reads to her from the children’s Bible every night. “Tanya has the most hunger for learning about God that I’ve seen,” Miss Ginger said. “She has changed so much and is now one of my favorite students.”

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.

Stories of Restoration From Our Residential Programs


The Renewal of Rick

God was waiting, ready to pounce on him. That’s how crushing self-condemnation made Rick feel. 

While battling an addiction to alcohol, Rick came to Water Street just hoping to make it through the tough winter months. But when he saw staff and volunteers joyfully serving him, his heart changed as he questioned where all their joy was coming from.

He discovered a God unlike what he had been raised to believe, one full of grace. Fueled with a passion to share that grace with others, Rick went into ministry, eventually serving as the President of a CityGate Mission in New Hampshire. Now Rick is Pastor of Crossroads Mennonite Church in Lancaster City and part of Water Street’s board. He still holds a passion for helping men and women who struggle with their self-worth understand the power of God’s love and grace. 


The Renewal of Jose

When Jose was in the third grade, his mom and siblings all became homeless. They knocked on the door of the Mission for help and received it. 

Jose looks back on that time of eating, sleeping, and being a kid at the Mission with the feeling that it kept his family together. “We were always in poverty, but we never felt defeated,” recalls Jose.

Today Jose is a husband, a father, and a pastor in Lancaster City.

Jose looks back on his journey through life and the path he took, and humbly says it all began at Water Street.


Jess's Journey Out Of Darkness

As a child, Jess grew up surrounded by abuse, which came from her own father and mother. Reaching out for help only seemed to make things worse, and by age 15 Jess was shunned by both her family and her church of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Out on her own, her rocky start led to more rocky places and decisions, as she fell into a pattern of accepting cut-rate love, all in an attempt to replace what she’d lost. When she met the future father of her children, Jess entered a new cycle of abuse. For herself, Jess put up with the pain…the emotional and physical abuse…but then one day, it impacted her daughter too. She realized she needed help and called Lancaster’s Emergency Hotline, which eventually led her to Water Street.

Once in our Residential program, Jess began to notice her mental health improving. She was calm and surrounded by a supportive community. She began to dig deep through classes and counseling and saw even better changes in her mentality.

The biggest obstacle for Jess had always been her mental health, and feeling worthy of love. But through hard work, Jess can now say she knows her value comes from simply being a child of God.

Just a few years back, Jess transitioned out of Water Street and into a job she loved, all while raising her two kids in their own apartment. These days Jess no longer finds herself feeling trapped by her past. Now, she wants to share her new sense of freedom and encouragement with others.

The Renewal of Gertina

Gertina had reached the point of exhaustion. Growing up in New York and raising a family in a dangerous area, situations led her to relocate to Lancaster in hopes of a better life for her children.  

Instead, her depression worsened, and her living conditions became increasingly unstable as she bounced from apartment to apartment. She reached out to Water Street for help and found the dignity and support she needed to overcome her obstacles. 

Through a difficult life journeyincluding the devastating loss of a daughterGertina had lost her faith in God. But as her spiritual foundation strengthened, the staff supported Gertina in building life skills and a network of support. Now she is empowered to care for her kids, saying, “Water Street is the best place to be. They will do a lot for you. They will listen to you … They do the best they can to be by your side.”  

Thank you to our sponsors!

Support Our Residential Guests.

Each night, we house more than 170 people. Since our start we have served millions of meals. 

Be a part of the rescue and renewal happening every day. Donate today.