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.