York City church reaching out to homeless youth

Jason Addy
York Dispatch

As the school year inches ever closer, members of the Cornerstone Baptist Church will host a “Party with a Purpose” to highlight the extent of youth homelessness and transiency in York City.

The event at Penn Park will run from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5, with parishioners hoping the party will shine a light on “the significant number of homeless students within York City boundaries,” said Dawn Squire of the Cornerstone Baptist Church.

The church will be selling $10 brown lunch bags — filled with food, a hygiene kit, a resource guide and vouchers for clothing and a hot meal — as part of its collaborative “Give a Bag” initiative with The Kitchen, G’s Jook Joint and Union Lutheran Church. 

The “Give a Bag” lunch bags will be packed Sunday, Aug. 6. Parishioners will then hand out the lunch bags to homeless students at the city’s parks and try to connect them to housing services and other assistance, Squire said.

The event also will feature games, activities, live music and food.

Staff and volunteers of York County Human Services provide donated items and conduct a homeless count at Our Daily Bread on South George Street, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. John A. Pavoncello photo

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Youth home: Homeless and transient youth face a myriad of issues stemming from not having a stable home, particularly in their education, Squire said.

About 30 percent of the York City School District’s student population faces “a constant revolving door” when it comes to finding a place to stay, Squire said.

Nearly 800 students in the district do not have a stable home, Squire said, with kids spending nights on the street, sleeping in cars and crashing on whatever couch is available to get through the night.

Every time a child changes homes and school districts, four to six months of education can be lost, and the student’s chance of graduating drops 10 percent, Squire said.

At the event, the church will be accepting donations for its Cornerstone Youth Home, a dormitory-style group home that the church hopes to open in time for the start of the 2018-19 school year.

Squire, who serves as president of the church’s advisory committee for the youth home, said the committee is looking to purchase a property in the city that could be converted into a group home for children who do not have a stable residence.

What the Food Trucks at Penn Park in York City, Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016.  Dawn J. Sagert photo

The youth home would house children from Sunday to Thursday, Squire said, giving children the opportunity to focus on their education during the school week while still being able to spend the weekends with their families.

While their parents search for more stable housing options, children can stay at the youth home and continue to go to the same school to develop deeper relationships and enhance their education, Squire said.

The youth-home project will come in two phases, Squire said, with the advisory committee focusing its initial efforts on opening a facility for about a dozen students in second, third and fourth grades before acquiring a second property in the years to come.

Squire said the advisory committee hopes to open a second facility by 2021 that would house 75 to 100 students and expand the service to students in all grade levels, from kindergarten through high school graduation.