Funding cut affects Carbon County’s homeless
Homelessness is a real problem that many don’t want to talk about.
On Thursday, two people, Robert Jacobs, a Carbon County Commissioner candidate, and Christine LeClair, a veteran who has made it her mission to help those need, approached the county commissioners to bring to light a new problem those facing homelessness are encountering.
Jacobs and LeClair spoke about Yvonne, a homeless woman who LeClair met and through the grace of the public’s help, found a home for her in Lansford.
What seemed like a happy ending for the woman is opening yet another rocky chapter following the state’s decision to cut funding that helped people like her.
Jacobs said that in July, the state Legislature and governor cut the temporary cash assistance funds.
“We want to bring attention to the funding for people like Yvonne, which has simply gone away,” Jacobs said, noting that Yvonne’s monthly stipend through the program went from $395 in June to $195 in July.
LeClair said that Yvonne depended on those funds after she applied for Supplemental Security Income due to having lymphedema.
“She was receiving the temporary funding and using it for things like copays for her medication, wraps for her lymphedema, toiletries and things like that,” LeClair said. “She now doesn’t have a way to wash her clothes or pay for her medication. She wanted to go back into the woods (rather than ask for more help), which is not an option.
“She was receiving the things she needs, but now that the assistance was taken away, she is at a loss.”
Jacobs said that Yvonne is only one person of probably nearly 200 in Carbon County who are homeless or near homeless and are being affected by this cut in funds.
“We want to help the homeless or those at risk here in Carbon County,” Jacobs said, pointing out that the last time the state cut funding for this was under Corbett’s administration in 2012.
He added that this decision was based on an audit, which showed 4 to 5 percent of those receiving help were fraudulent.
“That means that 95 percent of the funds went to legitimate individuals, yet the decisions are made on 4 to 5 percent,” he said. “Yes, the 4 to 5 percent needs to be dealt with, but it doesn’t mean we need to throw away everything in order to deal with that small percentage in our community that does the wrong thing.”
Both LeClair and Jacobs then urged the commissioners to advocate for the funding to be reinstated.
The commissioners agreed with them, also airing their frustrations with the state’s decisions for program funding.
“It continues to puzzle me how the state Legislature makes decisions to cut funding,” Commissioner William O’Gurek said. “We want to get state Rep. Doyle Heffley and Sen. John Yudichak in and say, ‘Look, they are our most vulnerable people, and you need to fight to get that restored.’
“We’re failing in Pennsylvania if we’re not taking care of the people that need the help the most,” he added.
Commissioners’ Chairman Wayne Nothstein said that the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania is on board with trying to get the funding restored, but also needs the help of both governmental and private human services organizations to get this accomplished.
“Write your legislators and make a little noise,” he said.
In another homelessness matter, Jacobs said that the task force that was created a few months ago is coming along nicely, building relationships and working on ways to help county residents.
He also said that he hopes within the next few months, that an announcement will be made of another shelter opening in the county.