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United Way of Lancaster County


County redevelopment authority awards contracts to bolster street outreach

Personal belongings are piled on a bench and shopping cart in Binns Park in this January 2023 file photo. (Source: OUL file)

The Lancaster County Homelessness Coalition has picked three nonprofits to help it expand street outreach in Lancaster this summer and fall.

This week, the board of the Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority, which houses the coalition’s administrative office, signed off on contracts totaling $111,105 with Anchor Lancaster ($17,520), Blueprints for Addiction Recovery ($70,585) and the Moravian Center ($23,000).

The Moravian and Anchor contracts are for six months and will fund an additional outreach worker at each nonprofit for 30 hours (Moravian) and 27.5 hours (Anchor) per week. The $70,585 Blueprints contract is for a full year, and will fund a certified recovery specialist to serve full-time, 40 hours a week.

All three organizations are actively involved in homelessness outreach already, along with numerous others, such as Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health’s street medicine team, Lancaster County Food Hub and the Lancaster EMS Refresh Lancaster mobile shower unit team. The organizations collaborate in the field and meet weekly to share information and coordinate their strategies.

In this undated photo, family medicine resident Dr. Samantha Bush takes part in Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health’s street medicine program. (Source: LG Health)

The added capacity is being deployed in hopes of offsetting the impact from the imminent closure of the low-barrier shelter on North Prince Street. The shelter, operated by the Lancaster County Food Hub, shut down its 40-bed winter expansion at the end of March, and is in the process of winding down its remaining 40 beds. It is to close no later than June 30.

After that, there will be no low-barrier beds in Lancaster until the opening of the shelter at Otterbein United Methodist Church, which is slated for Dec. 1. Agencies have warned that their absence will likely mean more street homelessness over the summer and fall. By increasing outreach, the coalition hopes to help more people obtain services and move them more quickly into stable housing.

The $111,105 comes from about $200,000 raised by the Lancaster County Community Foundation in a campaign initiated at the behest of Mayor Danene Sorace. Besides outreach, the money is replenishing a fund used to offset housing startup costs such as security deposits for indigent coalition clients.

Current Second Chance PA staff members are, from left, Arvin Alston, Julia Slaymaker and Andrew Schlager. (Source: Blueprints for Addiction Recovery)

For Blueprints, the contract allows it to increase staffing from three to four in its Second Chance program, which works with individuals to help them access help for mental health and substance abuse and keep them out of the criminal justice system.

That will allow Second Chance to assign three certified recovery specialists to the city most days, up from two on average.

“It hugely strengthens our city presence,” Blueprints CEO Ben McCoy said.

Second Chance began as a partnership with law enforcement, giving police an option other than arrest for individuals willing to pursue treatment. While that certainly remains a focus, the program has evolved into a broader community-focused referral and support program, Blueprints founder and president Chris Dreisbach said.

Earlier this month, the Moravian Center of Lancaster put out a call for the individual to be hired under its contract. It is looking for someone with at least two years of experience with homeless individuals, and would work a mix of day, evening and weekend hours.

At Anchor Lancaster, Executive Director Patty Eastep said the outreach worker would work closely with the nonprofit’s existing case manager.

Preparing for 2024-25

The three contracts were part of more than $1.6 million the redevelopment authority’s board awarded for homelessness services on Tuesday — 37 contracts in all.

Each January, the authority puts out a request for proposals from local nonprofits who want to provide homelessness services for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The contracts are usually awarded around this time.

They are awarded to cover six categories of service, said Deb Jones, director of the coalition’s office:

  • Shelter: Encompasses emergency shelters and transitional housing;
  • Coordinated entry: The county’s homelessness service providers manage clients in a single database so that information can be shared and services offered without duplication or omission;
  • Street outreach: Caseworkers who meet homeless individuals in the field to offer assistance and referrals;
  • Rapid rehousing: Transitional housing, case management, short-term rental assistance and related services;
  • Prevention: Case management to help individuals at risk of losing their housing retain it;
  • Special projects: Additional programs addressing street homelessness and helping individuals fleeing domestic violence.

The bulk of the annual funding comes from U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development grants. This year, the coalition folded in $78,850 from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency for homelessness prevention; last year, that grant was held in reserve for rental assistance, which was a priority due to the wind-down of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program after the pandemic.

One annual grant comes from a private source, the Katherine K. Gaeth Fund, overseen by the Community Foundation. This year, the fund is providing $27,900 for prevention services at ECHOS, Elizabethtown Community Housing & Outreach Services.

The recipients are a who’s-who of Lancaster County providers, ranging alphabetically from Anchor to YWCA. The largest amount went to the housing nonprofit Tenfold, which was awarded six contracts totaling $421,227. A carve-out of $260,000 will fund operations of the coalition’s low-barrier shelter at Otterbein United Methodist Church.

United Way of Lancaster County, One United Lancaster’s sponsor, received $53,426 for its 211 referral service, which is part of the coordinated entry system.

Overall, this round of funding is down by about $345,000 compared with 2023-24, due to the expiration of pandemic enhancements to HUD funding, Jones said.