County acts to aid homeless vets
Lehigh officials have first reading on $30K transfer
The flags outside the Lehigh County Government Center were at half-staff Wednesday in remembrance of the victims killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In the building Wednesday evening, Lehigh County government was taking steps to fund help for homeless military veterans. To that end, county commissioners had the first reading of an ordinance to transfer $30,000 from the county’s economic and community development fund to a new Lehigh Valley homeless veteran fund in the nonprofit Lehigh Valley Community Foundation.
The county plans to create a committee of five people with experience in veterans’ services or housing programs, finance and administration to allocate the money in grants to charitable organizations for services for homeless veterans in the Valley.
Once the fund is established, the public can donate to it as well.
Commissioner Marc J. Grammes, who was the prime sponsor of the ordinance, said Tom Applebach, county director of veterans affairs, brought the problem of homeless veterans to the commissioners’ attention.
They decided to create the fund in the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation because it is an independent public charity that helps individuals and groups direct their philanthropy, including toward local nonprofits.
Commissioner Dan Hartzell said the transfer makes sense to him.
“It’s not that much of a stretch to say that helping solve the homeless problem could be considered an economic development or community development function the same way it is to get crime … off the city streets,” Hartzell said.
Commissioner Amanda Holt, a prime mover behind the ordinance, agreed, saying that one of the core tasks of community development is to ensure people have adequate housing.
“In my mind, this certainly fits in the scope of community development,” Holt said, adding that the county donation is seed money. “Anyone can donate to this new fund that’s going to assist the homeless veterans out there.”
The final commissioners vote on the fund is expected in two weeks. The vote on the first reading of the ordinance was unanimously in favor of it.
Margie Peterson is a freelance writer for The Morning Call.