Community Shelter Services Marks 50 Years of Service to Erie’s Homeless

Established in 1973 as a 12-bed emergency shelter, Co-founders Mother Mary Beth Kennedy and Rev. Charles Kennedy Sr. -well known in the Erie community for their dedication to those less fortunate and legacy of love – began one of the first shelters in the area and what would eventually become Community Shelter Services as we know it today. During the next 50 years, Community Shelter Services would become the largest homeless shelter in Erie.

In 1987, CSS established our first Single Room Occupancy (SRO) facility, Columbus Apartments, in the old Columbus School in the heart of Little Italy. The Lodge on Sass became the agency’s second SRO in 1998. Collectively, Community Shelter Services operates 96 units of safe, suitable, affordable, and supportive (Section 8) housing for homeless adults.

“We do a lot with very little,” says CSS Executive Director, Diane Lazette. “Together with the wonderful Erie community we assure the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and security are met for homeless.”

“We have had clients from newborn to 84 years old; many veterans, families with children, those with mobility issues or mental illness,” explains Lazette. “Our hearts are always open… and so is our shelter! We operate 24 hours a day 7 days a week.”

In recognition of serving as Erie’s “pathway to housing, help, and hope” for these 50 years, CSS is hosting a celebration which will raise funds to aid the agency in its current goal of placing several tiny homes on its downtown property to provide family style emergency housing units where nuclear families can remain together while utilizing the services provided by CSS in the Emergency Shelter.

The celebration is scheduled for Friday, April 28th at beautiful Mound Grove events center in Waterford and has a Vegas-style theme, “Let the Good Times Roll.” The celebration will feature table games, slot machines, an Elvis impersonator and even a magician, not to mention games of chance and a live auction to support the agency’s fundraising goal. Sponsorships and seats for dinner are still available, please contact Development Director Katie Confer at kconfer@communityshelter.org or visit the agency’s website at www.communityshelter.org to learn more about these opportunities and to join the celebration and support those in need.

The event is co-chaired by Cathy & David Szymanski of Szymanski Consulting and Adam Baker of Schooley Mitchell. It is sponsored in partnership with presenting sponsors Plyler Entry Systems, Penn State Behrend and The Kiwanis Club of Erie, along with Erie Insurance, Szymanski Consulting, The Housing Authority of the City of Erie, Appletree and Kern PC, Doyle Security Systems, and All an Act Theatre Productions.

For more information about Community Shelter Services or its upcoming anniversary celebration, please visit www.communityshelter.org.