LOCAL

Burst pipes closed Prince Street Cafe but its workers are still busy — volunteering

Noel Miller
York Dispatch

Ben Igo and Abby Stein usually spend their weekdays behind the counter at Prince Street Cafe.

But this week, they were out on the streets of York City, handing out hand warmers and other supplies to the local unhoused community — a somewhat unexpected response to a minor disaster that unfolded this week at the downtown restaurant, located at 2 W. Market St.

After bitterly cold weather resulted in burst pipes at the Prince Street Cafe, its employees were left without much to do. One employee asked the cafe manager, Christine Dyke, if she knew of volunteer opportunities they could get involved in over the unexpected week off.

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So Dyke, in turn, reached out to one of the cafe's longtime community partners, Robin Shearer, at Friends and Neighbors of Pennsylvania to set up a volunteer opportunity.

"The thing to keep in mind is that homelessness and housing insecurity is a community issue," Shearer said, "It's a community issue and we need to work together to deal with it because it also effects a lot of systems and people we work with.

Igo, a shift manager, and Stein, a barista, joined homeless advocates Nick McMichael and Jory Tobias on their daily rounds to check in on the unhoused community of York.

On these rounds they hand out survival and hygiene items like hand warmers in the winter months, sanitary wipes and feminine products. They also update people on inclement weather and give resource information for shelter and meal availability, Tobias said.

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Earlier in the morning Stein helped sorted items for the survival kits they give out. "I sorted like 2,000 socks which was wonderful, it was very meditative," Stein said.

While it may not seem like the bright, spacious café on the town square is connected to the unhoused population at first glance, it absolutely is.

Friends & Neighbors Homeless Advocates Jory Tobias, on left,  checking in on an unhoused community member with Nicholas McMichael and Prince Street Cafe’s Abby Stein and Ben Igo, both form Spring Garden, on a street outreach walk through York on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022.

"We often see a lot of the transient, unsheltered population come through the cafe," Dyke said. "There's a fine line between treating people with dignity and kindness but yet also running a business. Friends and Neighbors helps us reach that balance."

Friends and Neighbors partnered with Prince Street Cafe after seeing how many unsheltered people came through and visited after the café opened, Dyke said. Each week, Friends and Neighbors drop off flyers to the café with updates on where food will be over the weekend, weather to expect and contact information for other resources, Tobias said.

Friends & Neighbors Homeless Advocates Nicholas McMichael, on right, checking in on an unhoused community member, on left,  with fellow advocate Jory Tobias and Prince Street Cafe’s Abby Stein and Ben Igo, both form Spring Garden, on a street outreach walk through York on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022.

Café employees will be volunteering through the end of the week. On Thursday, they volunteered at CRDC Global, a company that turns all types of plastic into concrete additives. Friday, they will be making rounds with Friends and Neighbors again.

There is no exact date when the café will reopen but Dyke expects it will at least be another week. To stay updated on Prince Street Cafe, visit their website at https://princestreetcafe.com/ and for more information about Friends and Neighbors of Pennsylvania, go to their website https://fnofpa.org/.

— Reach Noel Miller at NMiller3@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @TheNoelM.