State grant will help officials combat homelessness
Decade to Doorways will use housing trust fund dollars to serve more people in need
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.