WILLIAMSPORT – Whether it’s government funds, grants or private donations, building financial support to fight the issue of homelessness is not easy.
One homeless person costs community taxpayers $35,000 per year, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This includes medical costs, food, shelter and trips to the emergency room.
For a shelter like the American Rescue Workers, it costs $13,500 per year to help one person turn their life around and become a productive member of society again, according to Cleveland Way, director of the rescue workers’ Men’s Shelter.
“Investing in programs like ours is more taxpayer-friendly than doing nothing,” he said.
But getting funding for homeless programs can be difficult. American Rescue Workers are funded primarily by their recycled material program and individual donors, but other programs like Liberty House, a women’s shelter at the YWCA, are funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development and are more limited.
With government funding comes requirements and restrictions. The Liberty House recently had to switch from accepting all women, to just women suffering from abuse or drug and alcohol addiction, which is primarily due a requirement tied to the government funds.
Liberty House is understaffed, according to Amber Morningstar, program director. Morningstar works hard to apply for grant funding to offset some costs and hopes to bring on more case managers soon.
“It’s just a high demand. It’s a high need,” she said.
But despite modest funds, the homeless population still grows. A recent point-in-time count showed the total homeless in Lycoming County to be 137. This includes 14 unsheltered, 74 in transitional shelters and 49 in emergency shelters.
However, Morningstar added, this is not an accurate number do to the high quantity of couch surfers throughout the city.
To give an accurate description of the need, Morningstar submits a report directly from Liberty House showing its numbers.
“The need for affordable and safe housing is there and it’s not diminishing,” Morningstar said. “People don’t think homelessness is a problem here because they don’t see it.”
In addition to Liberty House, the YWCA offers emergency relief for victims of domestic abuse, counseling services and support groups.