As the economy has continued to struggle, so have families. Foreclosures, unemployment and health insurance crises have all made the headlines over the past months and years. Individuals and families facing these events, on top of the routine curve balls that life randomly throws at them, such as death, floods, hurricanes and the like, can suddenly find themselves without the means to meet their basic needs. Initially, they may forego what some of us deem necessities. There will be only one meal daily. They will heat only one room in order to afford oil or gas. The car is not repaired and no longer runs.
Funding source ends
Despite the best planning or the most frugal budgeting, these economic times have brought more in our community into this harsher, colder reality. On a national level, in 2011 there were approximately 21 homeless individuals per 10,000 in the general population. With Wayne County’s population hovering around 53,000 that equates to about 59 people. During this same period, the counts were impacted by the Federal ARRA funds, which meant that there were fewer homeless in 2011 than there would otherwise have been. Between April 2010 and April 2012, the Wayne County Office of Behavioral and Developmental Programs and Early Intervention administered grant funds for the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program, a component of the ARRA funding. During this two year period alone there were 33 households provided with funding to establish or maintain safe, affordable housing for those in Wayne County. This grant is now finished. The 2012 and 2013 homeless statistics surely will reflect the loss of ARRA funding, as well as the austere Federal and State Human Services budgets.
Hotel closes
At the end of Main Street, in the former Widener Building, are a cluster of Human Services offices. They include The Salvation Army, Catholic Social Services and Tre-Hab. These offices regularly greet the faces of those in our community who are in dire need: those who are having their power shut off, those who have no heat for their homes, and those who have nowhere to call home. Up until recently, they were able to provide emergency housing through the use of vouchers to individuals and families in need in cooperation with the Delaware and Hudson Hotel. Since the closing of the hotel on November 1st, those agencies have nowhere locally that will accept their vouchers. The hotel is currently available for lease, though with dwindling coffers, none of the existing agencies are able to take on something of this magnitude.
Church offers shelter
Grace Episcopal Church, on the corner of Church and 9th Streets in Honesdale, offers ‘Warmth in the Night’. On those nights when the temperature and/or wind-chill dips below zero degrees, the Church offers emergency shelter from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. Hot soup, fellowship, a warm bed and breakfast are provided each night. The shelter is open to anyone who is at risk due to the cold.
Volunteers needed
In an effort to coordinate the increasingly limited resources that are available, a Local Housing Options Team (L-HOT) has been established as a committee of the Wayne County Behavioral and Developmental Programs & Early Intervention Programs’ Quality Council. This coalition which includes the participation and partnership of those in the community with an interest in housing and homelessness, seeks to identify local housing needs; to expand housing options; and to find long-term solutions to housing and homelessness related issues. With this in mind, the L-HOT and volunteers will be participating in January’s Point-In-Time (PIT) Count. This is an annual event where volunteers spread through the community seeking out those who are homeless to obtain statistical information to be entered into a Federal database which prioritizes funding for housing related monies. In exchange, the Wayne County Office of Behavioral and Developmental Programs and Early Intervention hopes to provide participants with small gift bags with things like mittens, toothbrushes/toothpaste and resource information. Community help is needed. Please contact Carol Wilson or Tammy Walsh of the L-HOT at (570) 253-9200 if you are interested in: Collaborating with the LHOT to develop safe and affordable solutions for emergency and permanent housing for Wayne County residents Volunteering to participate in the PIT Count Contributing towards the PIT gift bags
For information:
Father Erb of Grace Episcopal Church’s Warmth in the Night may be reached at (570) 253-2760 or (570) 241-2685 if you have questions or would like to assist with this program. If you are aware of any placements or have an apartment that you would be willing to make available to accept vouchers for emergency housing, please contact Catholic Social Services at (570) 253-1777. "We would like to hear from you so we can work together towards ensuring that no one in our community is left out in the cold," said Darlene Miller, Administrative Assistant, Wayne County Office of Behavioral and Developmental Programs and Early Intervention.