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Seeking shelter

December 30, 2000

Seeking shelter



By ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writer


Rock bottom arrived, Tom Hensley figures, when he traded his V-6 Pinto for crack cocaine.

He lost his ride, but gained some wide-eyed perspective.

"I give the glory to God for taking the car," said Hensley, 40, who is staying at the Hagerstown United Rescue Mission on North Prospect Street as he weans himself from drugs and alcohol.

Hensley is one of two dozen people keeping off Hagerstown's streets at the Rescue Mission.

On an average night, an additional half-dozen or so people stay for the evening.

Representatives at two other Tri-State shelters said Saturday that they're moderately full, but aren't getting a flurry of people escaping the cold.

The National Weather Service is predicting Tri-State lows in the mid- to upper-teens today.

The Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless Cold Weather Shelter is averaging about 30 people, said security guard Cindi Messersmith.

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The shelter rotates among sites in Hagerstown. It left Christ's Reformed Church at 130 W. Franklin St. at 7 a.m. today.

At 7 p.m. today through Jan. 21, it will be at the Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown at 20 S. Prospect St.

Messersmith said the occupancy went up when the shelter moved from the city's outskirts to the downtown.

The Southcentral Community Action Program Inc.'s Franklin County Shelter for the Homeless in Chambersburg, Pa., can fit up to 24 people at once, said direct care worker Donna Hughes.

She said the shelter was near capacity in October and November, but had fewer occupants in December.

The coed shelter has private rooms, including two for families. Couples must show their marriage licenses to share a room.

The Rescue Mission in Hagerstown has 19 cots for visitors to use, but the biggest turnout this season was 11, said Marlin Ebersole, a mission resident who works at the reception desk.

Fellow resident and desk attendant Thurman Alford said people can come for church services, a meal, a cot or all three.

Hensley, a Dallas native, has been there since the week before Thanksgiving, when he had a relapse.

He's been clean since then, he said, and is enrolled in a literacy program so he can learn to read and write. He's also moving to the Good Samaritan Lodge for a Bible-based recovery program.

Having supporters around him and God in his life, Hensley said, "takes away the temptation of wanting to go out and use."

With its occasionally cranky coal furnace, the Rescue Mission "has got its ups and downs," Ebersole said, "but it's a good place to work them out."

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