Father, daughter help homeless at Waynesboro New Hope Shelter

February 08, 2012|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • Waynesboro New Hope Shelter Sarah Burcher, shelter manger, and her father, the Rev. Dr. Bill Burcher, executive director, have been lending a hand to the community through their work at the homeless shelter in Pennsylvania.
Photo by Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — It's not the life they imagined — living in a car, destitute and discouraged.

They were once productive individuals, with the stability of a job and a roof over their heads.

But then life took the nastiest of turns. The paycheck was gone, along with the house.

And the reasons were more complicated than a sagging economy. There was a changing job market, to be sure. But there were health problems — both emotional and physical. There were rising expenses, unforeseen bills and an income that couldn't keep pace.

Suddenly, they were unable to provide for the basics in life and they became homeless.

While most people know homelessness exists in their communities, many haven't put a face to it.

The Rev. Dr. Bill Burcher and his daughter, Sarah Burcher, not only see the faces, they know their names and their stories.

And every day, they try to lend a hand by opening their doors to those in need.

The doors belong to Waynesboro New Hope Shelter in Waynesboro, Pa., where Bill serves as executive director and Sarah is the shelter manager.

New Hope Shelter has been lending a hand to the homeless in the community for a number of years, Bill said.

"It took the combined efforts from many churches, businesses and organizations to transform the former clothing factory into a homeless shelter," he said. "Most of the building materials and furnishings were donated, making the New Hope Shelter truly a community project."

Bill is in his fourth year as the executive director. He has been a pastor for more than 30 years and is presently serving as the pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Waynesboro.

Sarah, who has an Master of Business Administration, has a background in nonprofits and has worked at several national agencies.

They believe their backgrounds make them the perfect fit for helping people get back on their feet.

"I'm grateful to be able to use my experiences and training to encourage others to keep striving for something better," Sarah said.

According to the Burchers, the shelter provides temporary housing for men, women and children who, for various reasons, have lost their place of residence.

In 2011, they said, the shelter provided food, clothing, guidance and housing to 154 people  — 114 adults and 40 children. The total number of days that New Hope provided shelter to homeless people was 5,197. The average length of stay in the shelter is 41 days, which the Burchers said is the time needed for individuals to find employment and housing. And they are able to help about 88 percent of the people entering the shelter secure permanent housing.

The people the shelter serves come from every socioeconomic and demographics background, they said. About 80 percent of the homeless come to the New Hope Shelter from Pennsylvania and the remaining 20 percent from Maryland.

Sarah Burcher said the shelter offers three programs to the homeless:

  Emergency shelter is a 30-day stay offered to homeless men, women and children.

"We provide free-of-charge meals, lodging, shower and laundry facilities," she said. "Also training classes are provided to assist the residents with finding housing and employment. We offer our residents a new hope and support for reentry into the community as self-reliant and contributing members. At the end of the initial 30 days, we have two different extended-stay programs for qualifying residents who need extra time in securing employment and housing."

 Work to Success allows residents who enter this program to stay an additional six to eight weeks at the shelter while diligently searching for employment. After becoming employed, they are guided through the process of leasing an apartment.

 Disability to Capability is aimed at residents who are unable to work or are sometimes limited to part-time work because of a physical disability or mental challenge. They are required to live an additional six to 12 weeks at the shelter and are also required to keep appointments with area agencies that can assist them in securing adequate income and housing.

The year-round shelter also has a thrift shop, which is located in the bottom floor of the shelter.

"The funds generated through the store are used to operate the shelter," Sarah said. "We appreciate all donations of gently used items, including furniture, appliances and tools. Donating these items is a great way to multiply your gifts, plus we offer pickup and delivery."

The Burchers said the shelter is run by three full-time and three part-time employees, three experience work employees and dozens of volunteers.

Staff or volunteers are in the office 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which could not be done, they added, without volunteers and community support.

Over the past few years, the shelter has faced some obstacles, including a fire started by an arsonist in 2008. The shelter was closed for 10 months and reopened in January of 2009.

But the Burchers and fellow staff people have stayed resilient and dedicated to helping the homeless because of the rewards, they said.

"Every job has its rewards but serving the homeless is exceptionally rewarding," Sarah noted.  "People come into the shelter destitute and discouraged. They leave with employment and housing, plus a new hope for the future."

"Just last week, a resident told me she hadn't eaten this well in a long time and another resident who had been living in his car expressed that he hadn't slept in months but had slept all night and was very grateful," she added. "But meeting physical needs is just the beginning.  New Hope strives to be more than just a change of address."

To help        

Waynesboro New Hope Shelter, at 25 S. Potomac St., Waynesboro, Pa., offers help to men, women and children. For more information about New Hope Shelter, go to or call 717-762-5840.

Wish list   

The Burchers said the shelter receives many donations from the community, including household items and food.

Their ongoing wish list includes the following items:

  •  Paper products: toilet paper, paper towels, tissues
  •  Cleaning supplies: bleach, 39-gallon trash bags, 13-gallon kitchen trash bags, powdered laundry detergent, dish liquid, Lysol Disinfectant Spray and wipes
  •  Personal care items: cold and allergy pills, liquid pain reliever, shampoos and conditioners, disposable razors for both men and women, toothbrushes and toothpaste, shaving cream
  • Food items:  canned meats (tuna, beef, chicken), creamed soups, canned potatoes, spaghetti sauce, shelf-stable milk, cheese sauce, salt and pepper, sugar, coffee, tea bags, drink mixes, gravy mixes, ground beef, ham, chicken, turkey, bacon and sausage, butter and margarine, onions
  •   Other items: over-the-door clothing hangers, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, 1-quart and 1- and 2-gallon size Ziploc bags

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