$2 million to aid homeless may be reducing need in Westmoreland
When the Westmoreland Coalition on Housing first met 14 years ago, the founding members didn't think homelessness was a problem.
"We thought everybody had a place to stay," said Bill Connolly, director of the Next Steps Supporting Housing program through Westmoreland Community Action. "We've found out how many people struggle with housing in Westmoreland County."
About 80 people representing social service agencies and governmental bodies throughout the county gathered in Hempfield on Wednesday for the coalition's annual meeting to discuss issues facing their groups and their clients.
Connolly said the Homeless Management Information System, an initiative of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has helped to provide solid data on the numbers of homeless people and their needs. The database pulls together client information from 10 organizations in the county to provide a snapshot of the homeless population.
In fiscal year 2010, those 10 agencies served 679 clients from 453 households who needed assistance with housing. In fiscal year 2011, which ended Sept. 30, those numbers dropped to 635 clients from 408 households.
The decrease is significant because, at the same time, about $2.1 million from the federal Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program was being distributed in the county.
That money was part of a three-year initiative to help people avoid eviction, pay overdue rent or utility bills, receive emergency short-term housing at local hotels and find or re-establish secure housing.
In 2010, it was distributed to 1,260 clients from 502 households. This year, it went to 477 clients from 191 households.
The funds allocated for Westmoreland County have been nearly depleted in 1 1⁄2 years, Connolly said.
"But we don't see the rise in homelessness going up as the HPRP monies are going down," he said.
The vast majority of clients served by both programs have sought help only once.
"Many people are staying in place after finding permanent housing or the help they need," he said.
Most of those needing help -- 46 percent in 2010 and 45 percent in 2011 -- last lived in the Greensburg ZIP code. Connolly said that's reflective of the fact that people often move to the county seat for jobs, services and ease of transportation, then need assistance.
But homelessness isn't just an adult issue.
Mary Clark, who coordinates the Homeless Children's Initiative through the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit, said school districts counted 300 homeless students in 2010-11. Most were "doubled-up" by living temporarily with other family members or friends after losing their home. Others were staying in a hotel or motel or spent time in a shelter. Clark said one child was living on a hillside.
Clark said 209 of the students were staying with their parents, while 91 were unaccompanied.
She said the numbers highlight a common misperception of the homeless as a veteran living under a bridge in a big city.
"The fastest-growing segment of the homeless population are single women and their children," Clark said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Latrobe group cancels raffle, seeks ticket holders for refunds
- 1 dead, 1 injured in Westmoreland crash
- Mt. Pleasant hospital sets ‘exceptional’ example
- Stewartsville principal’s comments taken out of context, district claims
- Southmoreland High School junior’s broken jaw ‘could have been avoided’
- Former Pagans leader works out plea agreement
- Woman charged with assault spree in Jeannette
- 2 suspects charged with second robbery in Hempfield
- Treatment ponds for mine drainage planned for Unity
- Donegal Township families fight driller to get clean water
- Jeannette pleads for more state help