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Supporters gather prior to the closure of the homeless shelter in Montgomery County

NORRISTOWN — “Housing is right. Housing is a right. Housing is right.”

This phrase was chanted several times during a rally on the stairs in front of Montgomery County Hall in downtown Norristown on Wednesday morning.

About 80 people gathered to protest the imminent closure of Norristown’s Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center.

“I believe that housing is right. We believe that our society has a certain responsibility to take care of the people who lose the least and the most. That’s what I have. We are in a fundamental position, “said Bill England, campaign director for the Here for Us coalition in Montgomery County.

The 50-bed CHOC facility on the grounds of Norristown State Hospital on Steriger Street is the largest and only homeless space for single adults over the age of 18 in Montgomery County.

The shelter is headquartered in Building 9 within a 68-acre parcel set to be transported from the state to the Norristown municipality. Nonprofits will close the door when the lease officially ends on Thursday, June 30th.

Penny Johnson, Program Supervisor of HopeWorx Inc.’s Community Satisfaction Team, spoke at a rally in Norristown Wednesday morning about the imminent closure of the Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center. (Rachel Ravina – MediaNews Group)

“When this shelter closes … everyone who was already struggling to recover is thrown into the mercy of the street. There is no excuse,” said HopeWorx, a program supervisor on the Inc’s community satisfaction team. Penny Johnson says.

Johnson of Norristown said he experienced homelessness in Montgomery County from July 2010 to July 2012, often sleeping on a bench in front of the court.

“I know what it means to worry about my safety and the safety of those around me every night,” she said. “I also know what it looks like when the doors are closed everywhere I go to ask for help.”

“Sorrowful and annoying”

Along with Johnson, some other supporters and community leaders gave perspectives and shared experiences during the approximately 30-minute rally.

“I’m here today, because I see undetained people suffering as a result of the government’s failure to meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable people in our community. It’s painful and annoying at the same time, “said Angelique Hinton. President of Greater Norristown NAACP.

Cary Silver, administrator of the Montgomery County Housing and Community Development Department, said that in addition to the lack of affordable housing in Montgomery County, rising living costs, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the remnants of Hurricane Aida He states that he is contributing. To increase the homeless population. On September 1, 2021, Aida brought historic flood levels and EF-2 tornadoes to the county and expelled many inhabitants.

John Nearros, who lives in Limerick at Pottstown Beacon of Hope, is smiling to take a picture. "Housing is correct" During a rally in Norristown on Wednesday morning. (Rachel Ravina-MediaNews Group)
John Nearros, who lives in Limerick at Pottstown Beacon in Hope, smiled at a rally in Norristown Wednesday morning to take a picture with a sign saying “Housing is right.” (Rachel Ravina – MediaNews Group)

County officials recently released their annual findings. Point in time count568 people have been found to be homeless locally.

According to Silver, more than 100 volunteers surveyed Abington, Ambler, Ardmore, Bridgeport, Cheltenham, King of Prasha, Landsdale, Lower Merion, Norristown, Pottstown, Souderton, Willow Grove and the surrounding area. The count took place on January 25th. , Said the count is required by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Land relocation replaces the center

According to Crandall Jones, Norristown Municipal Administrator, the 68-acre land transfer agreement was first achieved in 2017. The sale agreement was unanimously approved by the council during a working session in February, five years later.

The land will be transported to the local government, but the actual agreement was listed between the state and the Redevelopment Department of Montgomery County. The Norristown Zoning Hearing Board approved a request for differences to subdivide properties during a Tuesday night meeting.

Philadelphia-based human development resources oversee CHOC’s operations, which stopped accepting new customers on May 1, said Executive Director Christina Jordan.

Over a dozen organizations have come together to form a regional advocacy alliance for the responsible continuation of social safety net services. In April, a representative of the coalition sent a letter to government and community leaders requesting an extension of the lease of CHOC and adult home care facilities. Their request was rejected by the municipality on April 7.

“The lease is about to expire. I know there was a lot of debate between the state and the Norristown district and it was decided to proceed with the transportation of the land, and we all understand it. “England said in a telephone interview prior to Wednesday’s rally. “So when it closes, we just need another place.”

Next step

In February, the Montgomery County Commission unanimously approved a $ 2 million contract to financially support RHD’s “real estate acquisition.” Silver specified that the day after the February board meeting, the deal would support nonprofits in “acquisition of a new building.”

“We have a sale agreement and are currently in the due diligence process with the facility,” said Owen Kamso, Regional Director of Human Development, in an interview earlier this month referring to the facility in Lower Providence Township. Said.

During that time, supporters have been actively working to connect nearly 40 individuals using the service at Norristown’s facilities to their homes, according to Jordan.

“We are enthusiastic to take care of those who are currently in CHOC without a solution when CHOC closes the door, and even if no one does when the door closes. Good luck, we’re actively looking for a hotel partner, Silver said in an interview earlier this month.

The rally will take place Wednesday morning in front of Montgomery County Hall in Norristown. (Rachel Ravina-MediaNews Group)
The rally will take place Wednesday morning in front of Montgomery County Hall in Norristown. (Rachel Ravina – MediaNews Group)

“Who is responsible …”

In Wednesday’s discussions, Montgomery County and Norristown were in the limelight, but the organizers emphasized that multiple groups would need to participate to solve the current homelessness problem.

“Who is responsible for detaining non-inmates? Well, here’s the answer: all of us. Each of us throughout Montgomery County,” Silver said.

Marcia Ichelberger, Executive Director of Family Promise Monco, said:

“If we think Upper Dublin is homeless and we only have homeless people in the low-income areas of Norristown and Montgomery County, we’re wrong,” she said. “There is a homeless person. There is a homeless person and this is a community problem that we need to understand how to solve collectively.”

Norristown City Council Chairman Thomas Lepera also attended, stating that Ichelberger’s words resonated with him.

“It’s like the drums we’ve beaten here in Norristown with the closure of CHOC. The county has 62 municipalities, townships, and autonomous regions, all of which need to come together. There is, “says Lepera. “We cannot continue to hold responsibility and burden on Pottstown and Norristown to solve the county’s problems.”

Bill England, campaign director for the Here for Us Union in Montgomery County, speaks Wednesday morning at a rally in Norristown just one day before the Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center closes. (Rachel Ravina-MediaNews Group)
Bill England, campaign director for the Here for Us Union in Montgomery County, speaks Wednesday morning at a rally in Norristown just one day before the Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center closes. (Rachel Ravina – MediaNews Group)

At the end of the rally, supporters emphasized the importance of taking action.

Abbey Grasso, Managing Director of the National Federation of Mental Illness Families, said:

England invited attendees to visit hereforus.org to learn more about the Union initiative and sign the petition. He added that he hopes to engage in dialogue with lawmakers and organize future marches and rallies.

“We call on our leaders to provide safe and legal housing for everyone in Montgomery County who needs it,” England said.

Supporters gather prior to the closure of the homeless shelter in Montgomery County

Source link Supporters gather prior to the closure of the homeless shelter in Montgomery County

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