Market Square Presbyterian Church

20 S. Second St., Harrisburg, PA 17101



Market Square Future Plans for Homeless

At its most recent meeting, the Session took action NOT to host a tent community around the church building this coming winter. This action was based on a report from staff, as well as input from a new Market Square Homelessness Work Group,* which Dale Laninga chairs.

The overarching reason is that we cannot continue to host a tent community around our church exterior and do so safely. Last year’s storms, where snow and ice came crashing down one night on the tents decimating them, drove that safety concern home. If people had been in those tents at that time they likely would have been badly injured or worse.

While we were able to invite the tent residents into the church building just before the snow and ice crash, we cannot continue to do so. We host several programs which use the church facilities on an on-going basis: the International Service Center maintains a full schedule of ministry downstairs, and we partner with the United Way during the winter tax season to offer a free income tax assistance program for people with lower incomes.  These commitments make it difficult to house people on a continuing or even intermittent basis inside the church.

The Session action was in part based on a concern that we cannot put people at risk by having them sleep and reside on the sidewalk under our roof line. Further, we cannot constantly disrupt the programs that use our space.

Last winter, city officials and the police department cooperated wonderfully with Market Square by not enforcing ordinances prohibiting the blockage of sidewalks. However, this coming winter those ordinances will be enforced this winter in the interest of public safety. This enforcement includes Blackberry and River Streets.

The action by Session should not lead anyone to conclude that we are backing away from our ministry with those who are homeless. Just the opposite. We are helping in two specific ways.

  • We are advocating to find alternative sites for those without a home or shelter.  In addition to our Work Group on Homelessness, we are seeking longer term solutions. Tom, Kelly, and Dale Laninga are part of an ongoing community group including personnel from the city, county, CACH (Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness), Bethesda Mission, the Salvation Army, YWCA, Christian Churches United, Downtown Daily Bread, and others working on both short term needs (this winter) and longer term plans.
  • Another exciting venture is the plan to develop “Paxton Place.” “Paxton Place” is a new project at Paxton Ministries that will provide 37 new apartments for elderly folks of limited financial means. The Paxton Place project group is seeking an $8 million grant from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) and one of the application requirements is to demonstrate community support. The Session committed $30,000 toward the project when and if the PHFA funding grant is awarded. Elder Dale Laninga is our primary point person on this opportunity.

A word from Pastor Tom Sweet: “Our congregation was very supportive last winter (thank you!) of our church’s efforts to guide, manage, and provide for the tent community who lived here.  I am happy to report that, as of Monday, and through a variety of means and efforts, all of the persons who resided here through the winter last year have been placed into permanent housing.  Thanks be to God!”

*Other members of the group are Judd and Peggy McConnell, Jim Terry, Marty Shifflett, Carol Mayer, Steve Gaus, Tom Sweet)

Progress on Giving at MSPC

Each month information on the Year to Date Budgeted for the pledge income (which is the total pledge amount prorated equally across the year) and the Year to Date Actual income is provided in the church newsletter.