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Agencies help Monroe’s homeless population

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    This is a homeless person’s campsite in Stroudsburg. It was part of Street2Feet’s PIT count in late January. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

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    This is a homeless person’s campsite in Stroudsburg. It was part of Street2Feet’s Point in Time count in late January. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

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    This is another site where homeless people have found shelter to sleep in and get away from the winter weather. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Published March 09. 2019 07:32AM

 

Street2Feet, a Monroe County resource for the homeless and those at risk, conducted its “Point In Time” count over a 24-hour period in January.

The PIT count is a “snapshot of individuals experiencing homelessness on a given night,” said Elizabeth Bogart, site supervisor of Street2Feet.

It is part of Resources for Human Development, a nonprofit based in Philadelphia with more than 100 programs in 15 different states.

“We asked them, ‘where did you sleep last night?’ They were forthcoming about sleeping in the woods or in a church,” said Hope Christman, executive director of Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network in Sciota.

Christman and her interns assisted Bogart and staff with the count in Mount Pocono, the West End and Stroudsburg. They went into the streets to talk to people and identify those who are homeless.

That was a night when the snow was blowing and the temperature was below zero degrees Fahrenheit.

“A significantly mental ill man slept in a campsite behind a local grocery store. We went to check on him in the morning and make sure he was alive,” Bogart said. “We finally got him on the phone while he was at the bank and got him to use the shelter that night.”

The official numbers from the PIT count will be available later this month. Last year the PIT count yielded 191 people experiencing homelessness.

“Stroudsburg is the hub for homelessness because the majority of the services are here and it has a better bus service,” said Bogart. “If they are not in a shelter (outside the winter months of November-April), the last resort is a tent and sleeping bag.”

She shared a story of another man who voluntarily went into the woods of Glen Park 30 years ago to get sober.

“He’s still there. He keeps to himself and rarely comes into town. He had the best of intentions,” Bogart said.

He has seven tents set up and an area where he cooks. He hunts and fishes for his food, as well as attends free meals hosted by churches and other organizations.

As for the West End, 12 veterans are temporarily staying at a Valor House in Jonas, whom are part of the PIT count.

“They stay here while getting their affairs in order,” said Mark Baylis, founder and CEO of Valor Clinic Foundation.

While at the house, staff help veterans get medical attention, driver’s license, job networking opportunities, counseling and recovery programs, he said. The house can accommodate 13 veterans.

Baylis said the PIT count does not reflect the “working poor in rural communities who end up in campers and hunting cabins with inadequate utilities. Campers are considered housing even in negative seven-degree temperatures during a Pennsylvania winter. Cabins that should be condemned are also considered housing.”

As close as Effort, there is a family camping in the woods. A local church is trying to help them. The family does not want the community to know they’re homeless, Bogart said.

“Homelessness looks different in a rural community than it does in a town. There is a misconception that there are no homeless people in the county,” Christman said.

In a town or city, the homeless sleep on street benches and under bridges. But in a rural area like ours, the homeless sleep in their cars, Christman said.

At one time, there was a woman sleeping in her car parked at a cemetery. A guy on his way to PVEN’s food distribution saw the woman and told Christman about her.

Christman said she took blankets and food to the woman and connected her with Street2Feet for shelter.

“We really need more shelters for the homeless in Monroe County. Everyone is doing a fabulous job. But we need more space and more overnight shelters to work with individuals to get them off the street and into permanent housing,” Christman said.

Adults 18 and up

Street2Feet will celebrate its five-year anniversary in April. It was part of a solution to get the homeless off the streets and into a resource center by day and shelters at night time.

“Six or seven years ago, a fire started by homeless people under the Inner Borough bridge nearly burned the bridge down. After that, there was a call to action by churches and law enforcement,” she said.

It took about a year to apply for and receive RHD grant money to establish Street2Feet.

“RHD programs focus on homelessness, mental health and individuals with developmental disabilities, addiction recovery, etc.” said Bogart.

Its office, located at 130 N. First St., Suite 102 in Stroudsburg, provides a walk-in service during the daytime.

“We serve 20-40 clients a day. Last year, we had over 5,000 visits and approximately 500 clients,” Bogart said.

She said the agency collects a lot of data about their clientele and enter it into a database.

Clients can shower there on certain days and do laundry on certain days.

Street2Feet acts as a mailing address for clients, and mail is filed by last name. Clients can receive phone calls at the office. If they miss a call, a phone message note will be put in their mailbox.

Bogart is one of four full-time employees. There is an outreach coordinator, a case worker and a coordinated entry specialist to handle the 211 phone calls.

“When you dial 211, you get an automated answering system. If you are experiencing homelessness, push number 4. You’ll get a live person that will tell you about Street2Feet and Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church Emergency Cold Weather shelter,” Bogart said.

After a series of questions, the caller receives a score and if certain criteria are met, the person will receive information on where to go for help.

“Basically, we are a feeder program. We evaluate them to access their needs. Then refer them to other agencies that can help them, such as a food pantry, mental health program, funding for security deposit, or other program they might qualify for,” Bogart said.

Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church, at 915 N. Fifth St., provides shelter from 8 p.m. through 6 a.m. Nov. 1 through March 31.

“Lately we have had 30 to 37 men and women each night. We provide them with cots, linens and blankets. We serve dinner on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” said Lynda Keefer, co-lead pastor.

On snowy days and extremely cold days, such as the polar vortex days in late January, the church lets them stay all day long.

“They are always invited to worship, Bible study and other church activities. Many of them attend these events,” she said.

They can shower there, as well as at the YMCA and Street2Feet.

This time of the year, Street2Feet distributes hats, gloves, scarves and lip balm to those in need. The agency is appreciative of individuals and businesses who donate these items, Bogart said.

Success stories

A huge success of theirs is a partnership with Hayward Labs in East Stroudsburg, which hires Street2Feet clients.

“They don’t have to have a high school diploma. They just have to have work documents and pass a drug screen,” Bogart said. “It’s been a really great partnership.”

The company makes Palmer’s cocoa butter and other products. One of the Street2Feet clients is a forklift operator there.

“Our clients have problems with trust and addictions. The human resources department is wonderful and gives them a chance.” she said.

Street2Feet also has a strong relationship with PVEN.

“Clients don’t always say they are homeless. Instead we observe it and refer them. We sit right next to them as they make phone calls to different agencies,” Christman said.

PVEN is a food pantry, clothing closet and social service referral agency. It provides Street2Feet with those resources they have an abundance of — and vice versa.

Some people are afraid to admit they are homeless or in need of help.

“I think the fear people have is that they will be judged. We need to put ourselves in other people’s shoes,” she said. “I want people to feel at ease when they come to PVEN.”

Families

Whereas Street2Feet is for adults age 18 and up, Family Promise of Monroe County provides safe shelter, meals and resources for families with children.

“Our capacity is 14 people or four families because of the size of the churches where the families stay,” said Enid Logan, executive director of Family Promise in Stroudsburg.

Last year it helped 114 families, for a total of 318 individuals.

“Right now, our youngest child is 18 months old and our oldest is a 7-year-old,” Logan said.

It provides year-round shelter at nine partnering churches and its two campsites.

To maintain stability, the children remain in their district in which originally enrolled in, and if its buses cannot provide transportation, one of Family Promise’s two part-time drivers will drive the students to and from school.

“We encourage younger kids to go to day care so both parents can work. If a parent isn’t working, we help them look for a job, build resume and prepare for interviews,” she said.

During the day, clients can use Family Promise’s center to do laundry, make meals in the full kitchen or use the computers to job hunt and edit their resume.

Family Promise was established in 2008 and is funded through federal and state grants, foundations and community donations. In addition to Logan and the drivers, there are two full-time case managers.

“We encourage families to take a financial literacy class while here,” she said.

The class teaches them about needs versus wants, how much they can afford and about saving money.

The grant money they receive also helps to prevent homelessness.

“If we can keep them where they are, it really helps,” she said.

For more information: http://familypromisepa.org.

 

 

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