CLEARFIELD – When one hears the term “homeless,” they think of individuals sleeping in boxes or “tent cities” tucked up under bridges or highway overpasses.
However, in rural communities, particularly those with cold winter climates, the problem of homelessness may not be quite so out in the open.
On Thursday, Cen-Clear hosted a public meeting to discuss a grant they received from the Clearfield County Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Sean Rockmore, housing coordinator for Cen-Clear, discussed the grant with a group of landlords.
Rockmore said Cen-Clear is the agency-contracted provider for the Lawrence County Community Action Program’s Regional Emergency Solutions Grant program.
Those looking to receive assistance in Clearfield County through the program are entered into the Coordinated Entry System.
They are then evaluated using a “point system” based on the individual or family’s situation. Those seeking assistance are evaluated based on income requirements, family situation, military veteran status, mental health and whether they are fleeing a domestic violence situation.
The number of points will determine where the family or individual is placed on the waiting list for housing assistance. Rockmore said this ensures those with the greatest need receive assistance first.
According to information provided by Cen-Clear, as of April, almost 200 people were waiting to receive Section 8 vouchers.
Rockmore said Cen-Clear had first received a grant from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund in 2012 and then expanded the service by becoming a contracted provider for the ESG and also provided homeless services through two grants from the PHARE/Realty Transfer Tax and two grants from BNY Mellon Mid-Atlantic Charitable Trust.
Rockmore said this program differs from other programs offered by Cen-Clear because it is designed to assist those in need to obtain sustainable housing.
He said the program can provide assistance for 6-12 months, then the renter must be able to sustain paying their housing costs on their own. However, Rockmore said there are extenuating circumstances where that time-frame could be extended if necessary.
He said applicants must be adults and must provide documented proof of income and be considered “literally homeless.”
He said this means the person or family is either sleeping outside, staying in a shelter, sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation such as vehicles, or if they are fleeing a domestic violence situation.
Rockmore said Cen-Clear serves a large number of individuals and families that have low income, live below the poverty level and or have a disability. A large number of families are facing housing or housing-related problems. He said Cen-Clear has been able to help over 300 households since 2016.
According to information provided by Cen-Clear, Clearfield County’s unemployment rate was 4.3 percent, well above the state percentage of 3.9 percent as well as the national rate of 4 percent, ranking 46th out of the 67 counties within Pennsylvania.
In 2015, 16.6 percent of families were living below the poverty level, which has increased from 14.6 in 2013.
This lack of income can make finding affordable housing very difficult for families as well as individuals, as at least one-third of household income must be used to pay for housing.
This is particularly difficult for those receiving Social Security Income as their sole source of income, which pays about $771 per month.
This means individuals receiving SSI would be forced to use about 78 percent of their income just to rent an apartment at the monthly fair market value.
For more information about Cen-Clear’s Specialized Housing Program, call 1-800-525-5437 or visit www.cenclear.org.