Continuing my discussion with Jim Mercante and Burt Rothenberger on accessible housing. One in 100 of our neighbors has been homeless in a year, and we can do something about it. KACS (Kennett Area Community Service), our local food cabinet and housing resource, and the county have a vision to eliminate poverty, or at least let their customers enjoy a life with enough food, shelter above their heads, good schools and health care.
It will never be easy to be poor, but it should not be described as a trauma. Examining homelessness fails to capture the large portion of society that is at risk. They spend well over 30% of their income on accommodation, and often double that and have more than 2 people per room.
Homelessness is also not experienced uniformly, as more than half of homeless people are people of color.
George Carlin said America is about war. It’s the only thing we do well. We are waging a war on poverty, a war on hunger, a war on drugs, a war on cancer, but there is never a war on homelessness because there is no money in there. There are zoning ordinances that require two-acre minimums to insure NIMBY.
There is Section 8 housing assistance for poor families, but when you go online to Chester County it shows there is none available to rent. The shelters we have in the county have been compromised by COVID and hotels have become shelters. One bright spot is that due to federal money being distributed during COVID, the poverty population has actually decreased.
However, Carlin was right, there is no money in HLM. In 2021, of the 1,800 new homes built in Chester County, only 15% were worth $250,000 or less. The average list price of a home in March was $460,000. Half of the kindergarten students entering Kennett come from low-income families, where will they live? Rentals are worse.
Chester County Commissioners understand the need for affordable housing. Two local accessible housing councils have formed – Phoenixville and West Chester and they are working on a council centered around Kennett.
The key to a successful housing program, from New York to Salt Lake City, is the Housing First model, which means we place homeless people in housing as soon as possible. My experience as a KACS board member for 9 years is that it’s almost a law of nature that it’s easier to establish stability in a family or an individual who has a roof over their heads. above his head than for a transient who has no home. The Veterans Administration took this seriously and made it a priority to keep veterans off the streets with the goal of not leaving veterans homeless.
Chester County is one of the leaders in the fight against homelessness, as evidenced by the fact that it is only one of two PA government units selected for HUD’s House America program. Chester County, through the Chester County Housing Authority, is participating in a pilot program to provide housing vouchers to families to live in areas where the economic, educational and societal elements offer more of opportunities.
They have committed to relocating 150 households and adding 350 affordable homes to the pipeline by the end of 2022. They have set a goal of adding 100 affordable homes/year over the next 10 years. A 51-unit affordable housing complex in West Chester called Pinckney Hill Commons is opening this summer.
Habitat for Humanity is building a 40-unit development for first-time buyers in West Grove, and The Willows at Valley Run in Caln Township is set to begin construction in fall 2022, with a total of 120 units planned by the end. of 2024.
In the 1960s, one of Kennett’s great leaders was optometrist Dr. Leonard Kanofsky, an officer in the Kennett Rotary. With the motto “Service Above Self”, he observed the need for low cost housing to provide housing for incoming service workers and mushroom workers to ensure a robust local economy.
He had been part of many hits in Kennett, like the Senior Center, and he came out to raise money and finance the construction of affordable housing in the Kennett area. It was a complete failure, he was devoured by the community and his NIMBY attitude. It’s the city he loved so much but in this case it let him down.
In Len’s memory, and for the sake of our fellow citizens who need accessible housing, let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again. We can do it. For starters, we need to ensure that the development of the Kennett NVF site must include accessible housing if its development includes housing.
“The Kennett Story – Shaping the Future One Child at a Time” Bob George and Joan Holliday’s book on Kennett can be purchased on Amazon and at the Mushroom Cap or Resale Book Shoppe in Kennett. You can contact Bob at [email protected]