In June 9, 2016, the Coalition to end Homelessness was awarded the Spirit of Lancaster Award by the United Way of Lancaster County. The Spirit of Lancaster Award, which is modeled after the Spirit of America Award, is United Way’s highest honors and recognizes outstanding community involvement and investments by organizations or businesses and their employees. Recipients of this award usually have an exemplary commitment and caring spirit towards their community and united make a significant impact on Lancaster county. The coalition to End Homelessness has also made other noteworthy accomplishments over the years. These include increasing the number of partners, increasing state funding, refocusing the system from transitional to permanent housing, and functionally ending chronic Homelessness.

There are many misconceptions about Homelessness. For example, some people assume that homeless people are lazy, but the reality is that many homeless people work and are not lazy. Some people also assume that panhandlers are homeless people. The vast majority of panhandlers are not homeless. Some people also assume that Homelessness is a choice and that they can never be homeless. Nobody would ever choose to be homeless, about 72% of households have a cost burden and stand just one traumatic event away from being homeless, not even including an abundance of credit issues they face.

Lancaster county’s average rent is $834, which means that to pay for it, you need to work 107 hours a week at the rate of $7.25/hr. The leading reason for Homelessness in Lancaster is family disruption. Other factors that contribute to Homelessness include lack of affordable housing, lack of access to healthcare, inadequate wages, poverty, and food insufficiency. Around 14% of Lancaster residents have no insurance, 11.6% live in poverty, 15% of the children live in poverty, 33.1% live in houses with high cost, 32.2% live with high housing stress, 5.2% have insufficient access to healthy foods, and 11.7% experience food insufficiency.

There are many important lessons to learn from the success of Lancaster County Coalition to End Homelessness. For example, change is never swift, and organizing a community takes time. To be successful, you need to build credibility and trust you’re your partners. You need to have a consistent message which can be adapted to different audiences. A dedicated staff is an indispensable resource, and it’s important to ensure that every person is on the same page. It is also essential to have far-reaching knowledge of resources in the community. Lancaster County’s Coalition to End Homelessness is a model that we should continuously emulate in order to ensure that Homelessness is rare, brief and does not recur. We can never truly rest until we address essential issues in our society, such as poverty, lack of living wage, food insufficiency, and affordable housing.


At Lancaster County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities, an administrator and the Continuum of Care’s homeless management information system staff supported the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program. Two subgrantees were responsible for case management and used a reimbursement model to direct services. One subgrantee was responsible for central intake, and telephone screenings were performed by four staff members. All subgrantees would input all relevant data into the homeless management information system, and the Lancaster County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities would spot-check it for completeness and accuracy. In 2009, the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners, together with Phil Wenger, and a newly formed coalition made a press release highlighting private and public support for the ten-year plan. In 2010, the Lancaster County Board of commissioners recommended that the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental services adopt the role of lead agency for the new Coalition.


In January 2011, there were about 481 homeless people in Lancaster county. The point in time count found that there were 276 residents of transitional housing, 198 people living in emergency shelters, and seven homeless people without shelter. Lancaster County’s Continuum of Care homeless service system was managed by the Lancaster County Coalition to end Homelessness, and was hosted by the county Office of mental health. The Coalition to end Homelessness was comprised of community volunteers of homeless service providers and had committees, subcommittees for priority planning, including the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program and a leadership council. The Continuum of Care funded 140 transitional housing beds, 34 permanent supporting housing beds, and 252 emergency shelter beds. As of January 2011, these facilities had excess capacity, and this was due to the success of the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program in the community. At the end of 2011, Lancaster County had used 83% of its funds on prevention and 17% on rapid re-housing.


By 2014, the Lancaster Coalition to End Homelessness had already established a reliable infrastructure and was demonstrating growth and impact as a result. The Coalition also demonstrated a plateau in growth. The Coalition was voted to be moved from the county government to a non-profit umbrella of Lancaster General Health through a public process. In 2015, staff and responsibilities were moved to Lancaster General Health. In the same year, United Way updated their funding structure to be a collective impact model, and the Lancaster Coalition to End Homelessness was one of the initial seventeen partnerships to receive funding, adding to services $250,000. Before the funding, United Way had played a significant role in Homelessness in Lancaster county through staffing and housing plans. The Coalition was the most mature collaboration to be funded by United Way and worked together with United Way’s staff, including Vita, Volunteer Center, Director of Impact Partnerships, and 211. In 2016, the Women’s Leadership Council released funding for Caseworthy.


The Lancaster coalition to End Homelessness is funded and hosted by Lancaster General Health and is one of the impact partners of United Way of Lancaster. It is a coalition of community leaders and human and health service providers who work together to alleviate the issue of Homelessness in Lancaster County. The Coalition addresses the systemic barriers for families and individuals who are homeless. Some of the services they provide include rental assistance, rapid rehousing locators, and coordinated assessment and outreach. The network brings together systems and providers for a wider impact on homeless families and individuals, with the aim of eradicating Homelessness in Lancaster County. The eradication of Homelessness among veterans in the county is one of the ways in which the power in unity has been demonstrated by this collaboration.


In 2008, President Barack Obama signed the Hearth Act into law, and this created the building blocks for communities to functionally eliminate Homelessness. The federal government initiated a call to action to create wider reaching coalitions. This move was unprecedented since no such partnership had ever been pursued in history. In 2008, Lancaster County implemented a ten-year plan to eliminate Homelessness. Starting from 2004 up to the implementation of the ten-year plan, community members, Service providers, housing providers, business leaders, and local government officials had worked together to develop the plan. The contingency of providers met regularly to triage challenges and write a grant-interagency council for the Homelessness. There was no lead agency at the time, and this made the 10-year plan a community process. This had the benefit of getting several stakeholders to buy-in. All the group members who participated in developing the 10-year plan continued to get involved in the Lancaster Coalition to End Homelessness.


The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program was linked to the goals of the 10-year plan, and following the program’s success, the County Continuum of Care increased the focus of its efforts on prevention. The Lancaster County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities was responsible for administering Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program’s funds. The total funds were $2,120,286 and were allocated to the City of Lancaster, and County of Lancaster as $738,012, and $1,382,274 respectively. Following HUD’s announcement of the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program, Lancaster County Coalition to End Homelessness established a planning committee of service providers and funders. Lancaster was well-positioned for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program due to it’s recently approved 10-year plan, which focused on prevention activities, development of a common intake and a housing-first approach. The aim of developing a common intake was to ensure that the program and services which varied widely between the City of Lancaster and its outlying areas have uniform access. During this time, there were two operational prevention programs running in the community administered by two service providers. These experiences influenced providers to adopt national best practices, and they used their existing case management tools and Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program’s guidance to design their programs. As a result, the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program was a design largely integrated with prior experiences. The program, designed by the planning committee, had a key focus on people facing the most imminent risk of Homelessness–In other words, those that would become homeless if they didn’t get any assistance. For clients to be eligible for this program, they would have to be earning less than 30% of AMI and have a court-ordered eviction with a lockout date of fewer than two weeks.