“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” .
In 2019, 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.
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 16,200 Pennsylvanians are homeless. Approximately 13,000 school-age children experienced the insecurity of homelessness in 2017 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.
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.