“Being homeless is being without – without shelter, without resources, without support, without recognition, without power to influence society. Simple survival becomes a fulltime, humiliating task. People who are homeless often lose their sense of self-worth and their hope for the future. They feel cut-off and alienated from the rest of society.” ELCA social message “Homelessness: A Renewal of Commitment” .
As Lutherans, we believe that homelessness concerns people, human beings created in God’s image for a life of dignity. According to the ELCA’s social message on homelessness, “Being homeless is being without — without shelter, without resources, without support, without recognition, without power to influence society. Simple survival becomes a fulltime, humiliating task. People who are homeless often lose their sense of self-worth and their hope for the future. They feel cut-off and alienated from the rest of society.” An estimated 13,400 Pennsylvanians are homeless. Approximately 31,800 school-age children experienced housing insecurity in the 2020 calendar year in our state. Seniors who could otherwise remain in their homes are often forced into expensive nursing home care for lack of funds to modify their houses.
In 2022 LAMPa is advocating for greater funding for housing programs to assist people struggling with homelessness. Click the link to join LAMPa in advocating for these essential programs, and learn more about them and our work below:
- Raise the PHARE funding cap
- Pass the Whole-Home Repair legislation
LAMPa celebrates the passage of the new state budget which allocates $375 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding for affordable housing construction, rehabilitation, and repairs. That includes $125 million for a new Whole Home Repairs Program within the Department of Community and Economic Development. Read more about the state budget here.
In 2022, LAMPa will work to direct resources toward prevention, rather than merely emergency shelter and crisis health care, encouraging inter-agency cooperation to support individuals and families so that they do not become homeless, and to quickly locate people back into housing instead of temporary shelter. LAMPa will work with congregations addressing homelessness in their communities to eliminate barriers to safe, affordable housing. Access to affordable housing is a primary hurdle for victims of domestic violence seeking to flee an abuser, and homelessness is considered a significant factor in both a child’s academic performance and likelihood that he, she or they will experience sexual abuse.
Raising the PHARE funding cap is essential to serving all those who experience homelessness, in any way. Greater funding not only means being able to help those who are out on the streets, but also those who are quickly moving in that direction.
“To not have to tell someone ‘I’m sorry, you need to be living outside; you’re not homeless enough… in order for me to help you,’ is really hard. We recognise why we are trying to help those folks. They are often the people who don’t have any support network left, but there are plenty of folks who’s support networks are crumbling, cracked, that also need that support for stable housing.” – Kelly Blechertas, Program Coordinator with the York County Coalition on Homelessness
“It’s horrifying to have to say to a family ‘yes, your children are considered homeless by their school, we know that you’re receiving homeless services through the school, … but you’re not homeless enough to get housing.’ … PHARE helps to equalise the playing field and make it more FAIR.” – Chris Kapp, M.Div., Coordinated Entry Regional Manager for the Central Valley of the PA Eastern Balance of State Continuum of Care (CoC) through the Cumberland County Housing Authority.
This map provides background information of the prevalence of children and youth who experienced homelessness throughout Pennsylvania. The map was created by the People’s Emergency Center using county-level data published by the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Education for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness Program (ECYEH) 2020-2021.
The number of students identified by individual School Districts and Charter Schools are also listed starting on page two.
The County Fact Sheet from Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania is a good resource to learn about homelessness in your county and the affordable housing options that exist there.
A Just Society Supporting Health Of All – Race, Housing and Health Care. An ELCA study series that places before us the intersection of racial equity with environment, global, health, housing, hunger and migration realities. It invites us to look at obstacles and equip ourselves to advocate for a just society supporting the health of all
Homelessness in Pennsylvania was reduced during the Covid-19 pandemic due to increased spending on government support programs, as well as safety measures such as moratoriums on evictions.
Statistics on homelessness during the pandemic are forthcoming.
Reports from the Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) show that 13,375 Pennsylvanians experienced homelessness during 2019.
- 1,550 family households.
- 977 veterans.
- 716 unaccompanied young adults.
- 1,772 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.
- 31,822 students experiencing housing insecurity.
For national statistics, see this report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Causes of Homelessness in PA
The City of Philadelphia Office of Homeless Services cites several leading causes of homeless in the city and in the Commonwealth. These include: the opioid crisis, domestic violence, mental illness, young people ageing out of foster care, and lack of affordable housing.
State Programs to Address Homelessness
The Commonwealth has a number of departments and programs that seek to address homelessness and get people the help they need:
- Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED): administers Emergency Solutions grant funds that support homeless services and facilities across PA.
- HUD’s Continuum of Care (CoC) program funds services and programs across PA.
- Department of Human Services (DHS): Pennsylvania Transition to HOME program (PATH), Housing Assistance Program (HAP), and SOAR.
This report from the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania shows the findings of studies on evictions during the Covid-19 pandemic, and how these numbers compare to before the pandemic. It also notes how the government moratoriums on evictions helped to keep people housed during the pandemic-related economic crisis.
The lack of affordable housing is a major driver of poverty and hunger in Pennsylvania. It is also a barrier to education and health. The Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE) – commonly known as the State Housing Trust Fund is an important way to combat homelessness and ensure the dignity and well-being of citizens through creating new avenues for safe and affordable housing. Established in 2010 with help from LAMPa advocates, PHARE was established by Act 105 of 2010 (the “PHARE Act”) to provide the mechanism by which certain allocated state or federal funds, as well as funds from other outside sources, would be used to assist with the creation, rehabilitation and support of affordable housing throughout the Commonwealth. The PHARE Act did not allocate any funding but did outline specific requirements that include preferences, considerations, match funding options and obligations to utilize a percentage of the funds to assist households below 50% of the median area income.
The Marcellus Shale Impact Fee legislation, Act 13 of 2012, specifically allocated certain amounts from the impact fee into the PHARE Fund to address the need for affordable housing in the counties, where producing nonconventional gas wells are located, who have adopted the local impact fee as required in the Act. Act 13 provides an annual allocation of $5 Million into the PHARE Program with the potential for additional revenues when funds remain following eligible disbursements to qualifying municipalities.
In November 2015, HB792 was signed by Governor Wolf as Act 58 of 2015 to provide revenues from the Realty Transfer Tax (RTT) to the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE, Act 105 of 2010). These additional funds will expanded the PHARE program to all 67 counties of the Commonwealth.
Under Act 58 (PHARE/RTT), PHFA received an allocation of funds equal to the lesser of forty percent (40%) of the difference between the total dollar amount of the Realty Transfer Tax imposed under section 1102-C of the Tax Reform Code of 1971 collected for the prior fiscal year and the total amount of RTT estimated for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014. The PHARE/RTT fund will be capped at $25 million annually.