A plan to open an emergency homeless shelter in Carbon County is moving forward.

A meeting to discuss the possibility of opening a shelter, which would be called the "Manger Mission," was held recently at Blue Mountain Church, Palmerton, with approximately 20 people attending.

Aggie Shehadeh, founder of Peaceful Knights, was the facilitator of the two-hour meeting.

Individuals and representatives of several churches attended the meeting The discussion focused on several key issues - would it be Christ-based or secular; would it serve men - would it serve men and women - or would it serve men, women and children; and was a whole new organization needed to form or could it run it under the umbrella of Peaceful Knights?

Peaceful Knights is a not-for-profit corporation that helps those who are in need of temporary shelter and are able to work 30 hours a week and volunteer some time in the community.

"I also asked it they wanted to be "shepherds" or "sheep," she said.

Shepherds, she noted, were the leaders, while the sheep, would be the people who put in their time and physical energy into the project to make it work.

"When we looked at the questionnaire, we had about five people who wanted to be shepherds," she noted. "The rest wanted to be sheep."

She said that all but one of the people at that meeting voted for it be run under Peaceful Knights.

"It made sense for most of them to run it under Peaceful Knights rather than create a whole new organization," she said.

As founder and director of Peaceful Knights, Shehadeh is familiar with the needs of homeless people.

She said she knows that there are likely a lot more homeless people than anyone realizes.

"There is no way to count the number of people who are homeless," she said. She said that some are living on the Appalachian Trail and some are living along the river. She said some people who are homeless may have family or friends, while others have no safety net. She added that some of those people are homeless through no fault of their own."

"Through Peaceful Knights, we're housed about 100 people in the six years we've been in operation," she said. She said that if anyone who wants to help the homeless through Peaceful Knights, the easiest way they can do so is to donate a $25 Walmart gift card

"They come to us without socks, shoes, and most have no underwear," she said. "The gift card can also help them buy minutes on a cell phone." She said that gift cards could also be used for food, clothing and personal care items. Anyone who wants to help can drop off gift cards at Peaceful Knights office at 132 N. First St. or at Castlegate Realty. For additional information call 610-393-2536 or email Peace@ptd.net.

She said that Peaceful Knights offers assistance in a variety of ways. She said sometimes a person needs a bus ticket to get home. Others need help with budget counseling, food and shelter and helping find a job.

"A majority of the homeless have been homeless a long time or will be homeless for a long time," she noted. "You won't have any idea how many people are homeless until you actually are open," she said.

Anyone who wants to help the Manger Mission move forward, it is not too late.

The next meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 25 at Blue Mountain Church, 25 Oak St., Palmerton.