State grant will help of­fi­cials com­bat home­less­ness

Decade to Door­ways will use hous­ing trust fund dol­lars to serve more peo­ple in need

The Phoenix - - LOCAL NEWS -

Ch­ester County has quickly put to use a new source of state fund­ing to be­gin help­ing re­duce and elim­i­nate home­less­ness. The­money comes fromthe first ever statewide grants is­sued by Penn­syl­va­nia’s re­cently ex­panded state hous­ing trust fund.

“The hous­ing trust fund is work­ing ex­actly as we thought it would when we ad­vo­cated for its cre­ation,” said Phyl­lis Cham­ber­lain, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Hous­ing Al­liance of Penn­syl­va­nia. “Th­ese dol­lars that come from home sales go right back into the hous­ing mar­ket to cre­ate more homes for oth­ers.”

The Ch­ester County De­part­ment of Com­mu­nity Devel­op­ment de­ployed $300,000 re­ceived ear­lier this year to sup­port an ex­pan­sion of the Decade to Door­ways ini­tia­tive.

Decade to Door­ways is a 10-year ini­tia­tive that co­or­di­nates the ef­forts of those in Ch­ester County work­ing to com­bat home­less­ness, in­clud­ing govern­ment en­ti­ties, ser­vice providers, ed­u­ca­tors, health­care pro­fes­sion­als, faith com­mu­ni­ties, fun­ders and busi­nesses. It is ded­i­cated to re­duc­ing and ul­ti­mately pre­vent­ing home­less­ness among the more than 550 peo­ple who ex­pe­ri­ence it across the county each night.

“What we see every day is real time data and we know how many beds we have open. Un­for­tu­nately, we can’t cur­rently house ev­ery­one in need,” said pro­gram ad­min­is­tra­tor Lau­ren Camp­bell. “This fund­ing stream gives us the op­por­tu­nity and flex­i­bil­ity to fill pro­gram and ser­vice gaps.”

The grant is help­ing expand cur­rent ser­vices and im­prove ser­vice de­liv­ery, al­low­ing Decade to Door­ways to take a more ac­tive role in de­creas­ing home­less­ness in the county. In ad­di­tion to im­ple­ment­ing an im­proved hous­ing lo­ca­tion sys­tem, the fund­ing is be­ing used to in­crease shel­ter staff devel­op­ment and train­ing. Fur­ther­more, the ex­pan­sion­will cre­ate a case man­age­ment team specif­i­cally de­signed to re­duce re­cidi­vismby as­sist­ing those ex­it­ing shel­ter to main­tain their hous­ing. The ul­ti­mate goal of the ex­pan­sion ac­tiv­i­ties is to as­sure that every Ch­ester County res­i­dent’s ex­pe­ri­ence with home­less­ness is rare, brief and non­re­cur­ring.

“Hav­ing a staff per­son in the hous­ing fa­cil­i­ties to help with ques­tions and prob­lems every day is im­por­tant to help­ing peo­ple tran­si­tion from be­ing home­less,” said Pat Bokovitz, the county’s com­mu­nity devel­op­ment di­rec­tor.

Of­fi­cially called the Penn­syl­va­nia Hous­ing Af­ford­abil­ity and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion En­hance­ment Fund (PHARE), the state hous- ing trust fund was cre­ated in De­cem­ber 2010 and got its first rev­enue source from the Mar­cel­lus Shale Im­pact fee. As a re­sult, grants were ini­tially used to sup­port af­ford­able homes in the shale re­gion through re­hab­bing rental prop­er­ties, home­owner re­pairs, rental as­sis­tance, site prepa­ra­tion, new con­struc­tion and a wide range of ac­tiv­i­ties based on lo­cal needs.

Fol­low­ing their years­long ef­fort to first es­tab­lish PHARE, the Hous­ing Al­liance of Penn­syl­va­nia led a sec­ond suc­cess­ful ad­vo­cacy cam­paign to en­able the fund’s ex­pan­sion into non-Mar­cel­lus Shale pro­duc­ing coun­ties. Gov. Tom Wolf signed the leg­is­la­tion on Nov. 4, 2015, pay­ing for the ex­pan­sion with­out cre­at­ing new fees or rais­ing taxes – in­stead draw­ing rev­enues from fu­ture growth in the Realty Trans­fer Tax as the real es­tate mar­ket con­tin­ues to per­form well.

In April, $12.03 mil­lion of grant fund­ing was awarded in 38 coun­ties for 68 ini­tia­tives through the ex­pan­sion of PHARE.

The Hous­ing Al­liance of Penn­syl­va­nia is a statewide coali­tion work­ing to pro­vide lead­er­ship and a com­mon voice for poli­cies, prac­tices and re­sources to en­sure that all Penn­syl­va­ni­ans, espe­cially those with low in­comes, have ac­cess to safe, de­cent and af­ford­able homes. To learn more, visit www.Hous­ingAl­liancePA.org.

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