The new year has begun, and despite the new opportunities and hopes offered by 2021, many of the same problems plague the homeless and impoverished around the world. However, there are measures that we can take to support those locally that need it most. According to data from 2020, the census of the homeless in Erie alone totaled about 1,034 individuals, with about 185 being perpetually homeless, and about 151 being military veterans. During the day of the census, 90 percent of the shelters were totally occupied.
According to a survey done within the census, the top cause of homelessness was mental health problems. The question remains: how can we assist those in need? Mr. Turri, the Program Director of the Community Shelter Services explained how the shelters run by the Community Shelter Services work.
He said that most shelters cater to specific groups of people, but a few will take single men and women, as well as families. Some require an appointment to be made, and some are emergency shelters and will take people coming in off the street.
Additionally, there are programs that will rent homes to families at a rate based on their income, as well as help them find affordable apartments. Specifically, Mr. Turri works at the Lodge on Sass, which houses individuals rather than families, with rent based on income—30 percent of the gross income.
In shelters such as the Lodge on Sass, where rent is paid, there is no limit on the length of the stay. Due to the pandemic, it is also harder for people move in and out of the shelter. People applying to get in may have to wait several months before there is an opening. Additionally, those who wish to attend the Lodge on Sass must be 18 or older, and under a certain income level. Currently, there are 37 men, and 11 women at the Lodge on Sass.
Mr. Turri said that to help, while there are limited volunteer positions due to the pandemic, those in the positions available can help serving meals, as well as clean and provide basic maintenance. Some recurring volunteers also assist with administration, and even provide services like haircuts. Otherwise, donations would be appreciated, ranging from toiletries, articles of clothing like underwear and socks, towels, as well as sheets, dishes, pots, and pans, for when the people experiencing homelessness are provided with an apartment.
However, any and all donations to local shelters and food banks are appreciated. During these hard times, taking time out of one’s day to volunteer and donate is absolutely vital for the homeless population, so consider using your resources and generosity to provide for the homeless in our area.
Written by special contributor Henry Abercrombie