Article By: Doug Graves Special to the Bethlehem Press
Effective this winter ,Christ United Church of Christ at Center and Market streets will provide a cot and food to homeless men and women over 18. This is a change in the policy of previous years, when the homeless were rotated daily among several churches around the city of Bethlehem.
The new homeless policy has been adopted by Bethlehem Emergency Sheltering, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing food and shelter to homeless men and women during the winter months.
Homeless men and women over 18 can be housed on cold nights starting Dec. 1 through March 31. They will be accepted from 5 p.m. through 7:30 a.m. the next day, after which time they must leave the shelter for the day.
Volunteers from various churches will provide staffing each night that the shelter is open.
Reverend Gary Marsh, the chairman of the board of directors of Bethlehem Emergency Sheltering, said in a later interview that there is plenty of space for at least 75 people, but past records suggest that the population of homeless in shelters would be about 10 to 20 women and about 30 to 50 men per night.
“Our goal is to prevent people from dying,” said Reverend Marsh. “Homelessness is a health care crisis. Ten years ago a couple of people died on the streets.”
In other business, resident Barbara Diamond used the public comment phase of the meeting to voice concern about the recently passed City of Bethlehem law defining restricted gifts. “As I have said before, experts in municipal ethics, Robert Wechsler for example, warn against weak ethics legislation – window dressing, as he calls it. Lax enforcement of ethics violations is a problem. Internal investigation and enforcement are not very credible with the public. Your enforcement falls very short on accountability and transparency.”
In other business, Mayor Bob Donchez reported that Bethlehem now has an A+ bond rating, the third such increase. Council President Willie Reynolds responded by thanking Donchez for “leading the way.”