As the holiday season rapidly approaches, many of us are rushing around finishing up last minute shopping, happily anticipating joyful times to be spent with family and friends enveloped in the warmth of their company.
As the holiday season rapidly approaches, many of us are rushing around finishing up last minute shopping, happily anticipating joyful times to be spent with family and friends enveloped in the warmth of their company. But for some in our community, this season holds a much harsher, colder reality. As the economy has continued to struggle, so have some families. Foreclosures, unemployment and health insurance crises have all made the headlines over the past months and years. Individuals and families facing these events, in addition to the routine curve balls that life randomly throws at us all, can suddenly find themselves without the means to meet their basic needs a roof over their heads. 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. Then some face the ultimate challenge: losing their home or apartment. At first they may “couch surf” with relatives or friends. Then they may live in their car if one exists. Then they may literally ‘hit the streets.’ 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. 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. During this short time alone there were 33 households assisted to establish or maintain safe, affordable housing. This grant is no longer available. Homeless families and individuals sometimes turn to short-term use of the Grace Episcopal Church, on the corner of Church and 9th Streets in Honesdale. The church offers ‘Warmth in the Night’ for extremely cold nights. On those nights when the temperature dips into the single digits and especially when the wind chill “bites”, 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. The operation is run entirely by volunteers. 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 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, we hope to provide participations with small gift bags of things such as mittens, blankets, toothbrushes/toothpaste and resource information. Will you volunteer to help us for one night? We really need the help of a few good volunteers to join us in locating people who are homeless. Please contact Cindy Matthews of the L-HOT at 570-253-9200 if you are interested in: • Collaborating with the L-HOT to develop safe and affordable solutions for emergency and permanent housing for Wayne County residents. • Volunteering to participate in the PIT Count to be conducted in the evening on Wednesday, January 29, 2014. • Contributing toward the PIT gift bags. 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.