Bradford County is pursuing a second round of Emergency Solutions Grant funding through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to help support local programs addressing homelessness.
Last year, the county was awarded $50,000 of the $100,000 that it sought. This year, the county is applying for $175,000, according to county Grants Coordinator Amanda Boyer.
During the winter, officials took part in a federal homeless survey that had participants canvassing the county at night to find those who didn’t have a roof over their head.
According to Commissioner Ed Bustin, as many as five were identified throughout the county.
In the Valley, where Bustin and Boyer participated, he said they didn’t see anyone specifically but heard of sightings from others they spoke with.
However, given the winter timing of the survey, Bustin said the process could have been better.
“We’re thinking that, informally, we should do one during the summer,” said Bustin. “We suspect that the results would be very different.”
The survey also didn’t take into account the “couch surfers” who might not have a permanent home, but still have a roof over their heads and need help.
“There’s a lot of systems in this country that support people, but almost all of them require some link to the establishment, whether it’s Social Security, work records or a driver’s license, or address. So there are a lot of these folks who are kind of in this netherworld where it’s really difficult,” said Bustin.
While there are homeless that have simply fallen on hard times or might be escaping an abusive situation, Commissioner Doug McLinko warned about “couch surfers” who might be abusing substances. McLinko provided the example of a situation with a landlord he knows where a place was leased in good faith to someone who had been through rehabilitation but ended up damaged from suspected drug activity taking place there, with a lengthy court process ahead.
“Along with the conversation of helping those who need help, we need to separate it our from those who really need to be reprimanded, disciplined and punished because they destroy people’s personal property and create a really bad environment for the neighborhood,” said McLinko.
Before someone can receive help, McLinko stressed that they have to want it.
This message was part of an opioid discussion during the Intergovernmental Leadership Day at the White House on Tuesday.
“It’s exhausting because you have those who want to be helped and those who don’t want to be helped, and it’s a tangled up mess,” said McLinko.
Intergovernmental Leadership Day
Also attending Tuesday’s Intergovernmental Leadership Day at the White House was Commissioner Daryl Miller, who said many of the panel discussions fell under the umbrella of economic development and energy policy.
The event was open to elected officials at all levels in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland, although McLinko noted that supervisors in Bradford County didn’t receive an invitation and he didn’t know why.
“They’re basically laying out what the administration’s goals are, what they would like to see, but they are listening at the same time to the issues we have at the local level,” said Miller, who added that this input will be used to make sure federal programs have the maximum impact at the local level.
“It was actually a good exchange and a good opportunity to meet with the administration to just air out some of these concerns — a back-and-forth to hear what they have to offer — plus hearing from the local level as to the challenges you face trying to get some of this stuff implemented,” said Miller.