York County Coalition on Homelessness is a collaboration of about 50 community partners, social service organizations and passionate volunteers who work together to help people facing homelessness across York County get connected to safe places to live and the vital resources they need.
Kelly Blechartas, Program Coordinator, and Alexandra Smith, Program Reporting Specialist, tell us more:
Is this something new?
Formerly called the York City/County Continuum of Care, this collaboration has been assisting York County residents since 1998 and in its current structure since 2010.
Why concentrate on homelessness?
Homelessness is a reality in our communities, and it’s more than the stereotypes so many people think. It’s caused by a wide variety of life events and circumstances and impacts hundreds of York County moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandparents, sons, and daughters each year. For many reasons, they have no safe place to call home. They find themselves unsure of where they will sleep from night to night, lacking the essentials of shelter and security.
Who are the members and what is the main objective of the Coalition?
The Coalition is made up of vital housing and social service agencies, community leaders and tireless volunteers. As a coalition, we are focused on opening more doors for people in need; connecting them to housing as well as critical resources like food, healthcare, employment, and education. By working together, we maximize our community’s vital resources, providing more people with safe, secure places to live. Homelessness impacts more than those who are facing it. It affects our public systems, emergency services, hospitals, and schools. Our entire community benefits and gets stronger when we work together to end it.
Can you explain what determines who is helped and how?
The Coalition has a coordinated housing assessment process known as Pathways to Home, which helps guide more people to safe places to live. This centralized system allows someone facing a housing crisis or experiencing homelessness to make one connection to receive fair and equal access to housing and assistance based on their individual needs. Pathways to Home removes barriers and delays and matches individuals and families with best fit support resources for permanent housing. Bell Socialization Services plays a vital role in the Pathways process; both Bell Family Shelter and Bell Next Door Program complete housing assessments for referral to permanent housing programs.
Is there more to the Coalition than the assessment?
Yes, in addition to managing Pathways to Home, the Coalition acts as the community catalyst for change through advocacy, education, and leadership. We work to bring community organizations, public sector partners, private businesses, and our citizens together to develop initiatives and programs to take on homelessness and other basic needs insecurities head-on.
The York County Coalition on Homelessness is also the primary funding conduit for federal, state, and local grants, which infuse critical funds into the community and leads research efforts to understand how homelessness is affecting our community and what initiatives are creating the most positive change. Our coalition partnership is supported through staffed resources from the York County Planning Commission, who offer steadfast focus and commitment to keep efforts driving forward.
So, in addition to organizations and agencies, individuals who are interested in the issues of homelessness can participate?
Absolutely. For more information, or to get involved, reach out to either of us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kelly Blechertas & Alexandra Smith
As the program coordinator for the York County Coalition on Homelessness (COH), Kelly has been working on collaboration around homeless and at-risk populations for 15 years in York County, and provides staff support for the Coalition and Pathways to Home process. In her free time, she enjoys reading, baking, and spending time with her family.
Alexandra joined the York County COH in September 2019. Allie previously worked as a case manager for the Bell Supported Housing Program. Since she began working in this field, Allie has a newfound passion for helping low income & homeless populations in York County. In her free time, she enjoys shopping and spending time with her family and friends.