Harrisburg and Dauphin County may repurpose a prominent, long-vacant building to serve as a facility for the city’s unhoused.
The Paxton firehouse, located in Shipoke, has sat empty for years, but is now being weighed as a potential service center to support residents experiencing homelessness.
According to Randie Yeager, Dauphin County human services director, the proposal came after the county noticed an increased need for shower facilities for the unhoused population. Several area organizations that have provided those services have either reduced capacity, reached max capacity or closed, she said.
The county, along with the city and local organizations that serve the unhoused, are working together to address this issue, she said.
Their current proposal, dubbed “Showers on Second,” would be to use the 85-year-old firehouse as a place for residents in need to possibly access showers, among other services, according to a written proposal sent to Shipoke residents by the county.
County, Harrisburg Fire Bureau and Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness representatives held a closed meeting with Shipoke residents on Wednesday to discuss the proposal. When contacted by TheBurg, the Shipoke Neighborhood Association declined to comment on the proposal.
The Paxton Fire Co. firehouse, formerly known as Station 6, closed in 2014 due to its need for significant repairs and its location in a flood zone.
Yeager said that the county is still considering other locations for a service center and that no decision has yet been made on the firehouse.
“The City of Harrisburg is committed to addressing homelessness in our city through non-traditional ways and we are excited to collaborate with local partners,” said Harrisburg Director of Communications Matt Maisel.
According to Yeager, if the county moves forward with the proposal, it would seek a local organization to run operations at the facility.
Other possible services offered at the center could include providing locker space, snacks and visits by Dauphin County Human Services staff.
According to the proposal document, the Paxton firehouse location could serve around 15 to 30 people daily and is in close proximity to south Harrisburg and downtown encampments of unhoused residents.
While the initiative is still in draft form, Yeager said that she hopes to soon see action to fill the gap in services.
“The sooner, the better,” she said.
The Paxton Firehouse is located at 336 S. 2nd St., Harrisburg.
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