Program helps fund rent and utility assistance

MIfflin-Juniata Human Services receives $20K

From staff reports

-LEWISTOWN — The Mifflin Juniata Human Services Department has quickly put to use a new source of state funding to provide enhanced case management services for those receiving housing assistance. The money comes from the first ever statewide grants issued by Pennsylvania’s recently expanded state housing trust fund.

“The housing trust fund is working exactly as we thought it would when we advocated for its creation,” said Phyllis Chamberlain, executive director of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania. “These dollars that come from home sales go right back into the housing market to create more homes for others.”

The Mifflin Juniata Human Services Department received $20,000 to support its Stable Housing Program.

The Stable Housing Program is using the funds to supplement rent and utility assistance and housing assistance with additional financial education and case management services. The grant provides the opportunity for longer term assistance if necessary.

“When we ask people to move out of poverty, we’re asking them to make new relationships with their resources,” said Allison Fisher, director of the Human Services Department. “Finding stability through a different type of relationship with resources takes time, and some people we work with can benefit from the additional assistance.”

The grant is helping expand current services and establish a bridge program to help phase people out of the need for assistance. Focused on families, persons with disabilities and ex-offenders reentering the community, the Stable Housing Program is a preventative care option that provides an additional 90 days of case management.

“We want people to think of the Stable Housing Program as an investment in themselves and their community,” said Fisher. “If the extended assistance isn’t needed by one individual or family, it will be used for someone else in need, which means we will be able to stretch the funding further.”

Officially called the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund, the state housing trust fund was created in December 2010 and got its first revenue source from the Marcellus Shale Impact fee. As a result, grants were initially used to support affordable homes in the shale region through rehabbing rental properties, homeowner repairs, rental assistance, site preparation, new construction and a wide range of activities based on local needs.

Following their years-long effort to first establish PHARE, the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania led a second successful advocacy campaign to enable the fund’s expansion into non-Marcellus Shale producing counties. Gov. Tom Wolf signed the legislation on Nov. 4, 2015, paying for the expansion without creating new fees or raising taxes – instead drawing revenues from future growth in the Realty Transfer Tax as the real estate market continues to perform well.

In April, $12.03 million of grant funding was awarded in 38 counties for 68 initiatives through the expansion of PHARE.

The Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania is a statewide coalition working to provide leadership and a common voice for policies, practices and resources to ensure that all Pennsylvanians, especially those with low incomes, have access to safe, decent and affordable homes. To learn more, please visit www.HousingAlliancePA.org.

COMMENTS