By Angalyse Keyock
The official start of winter on Dec. 21 is approaching fast, bringing that familiar drop in temperatures and possibly some snow.
For most, this sounds like a good night to turn on your favorite movie and sit by the fireplace in a blanket.
For 12 percent of Monroe County’s population, this is not the case.
In the eastern part of Pennsylvania, Monroe County has the highest rate of homelessness because of the lack of shelters within the area compared to Lehigh and Northampton County.
Just because Monroe County may lack in shelters in the area, it does not mean they lack in resources and as a helping hand to those in need.
United Way, who is reaching their 75th year of “Living United” within Monroe County has stood true to their values firsthand within the community.
United Way is a national organization that creates specific initiatives based on their specific community’s needs.
The United Way of Monroe County is focused on three initiatives: access to healthy food, support for working families, help when needed most.
United Way is tied to many different local organizations such as the YMCA, Meals on Wheels, Second Harvest Food Bank, the Salvation Army and American Red Cross.
“Let’s all come to the table for our community,” said Jennifer Strauch, the vice president and community initiatives director. “Community impact moves at the speed of trust.”
United Way is a catalyst between this organizations, to create an even bigger impact than just the food pantry can. Strauch explains that “systematic change” will occur in the community when everyone works together.
Every year, United Way coordinates with organizations in the county for the Day of Caring.
Every year, in counties across the nation that has an United Way organization coordinated with it, local organizations come together with United Way to volunteer and improve an aspect that needs improving within their community.
United Way is a link for low income and homeless families to use as a link for resources within Monroe County such as providing the direct access to filing federal and state taxes for free through H&R Block, as well as discounted perception drugs through Family Wise.
One of the close contacts that United Way has developed a relationship with is the Family Promise of Monroe County.
For the past ten years Family Promise has provided shelter, meals, and support to those with none from the help of 21 support churches.
“Within the past year we have served 109 individuals, 51 families, which equals out to 2,886 nights of shelter and 1,854 meals from June to July,” said Enid Logan, the executive director of Family Promise.
“Our main goal for Family Promise is to develop a plan for getting people into independent housing and out of our shelter or the streets.”
If currently homeless and looking to stay in a Family Promise shelter, you must be interviewed, and fall under the criteria off being a Monroe County resident for six months, as well as have no domestic abuse two months prior.
Like mentioned before, Family Promise provided 2,886 nights of shelter between a one-year period to the 12 percent of residents homeless in the county.
Do you ever wonder how they accounted for the 12 percent of people living without a home?
Coming up on Jan. 24 community members of Monroe County will hold their annual Point-in-Time Count.
The count is conducted by teams of community volunteers. Formed in 2013, the Monroe County Homeless Initiative, addresses community issues including homelessness.
The results are collected through surveys, volunteers who conduct on the streets, which gather numbers of homeless people and their demographic breakdowns.
These results are then sent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
“The purpose of the Point-in-Time Count is to initially get these people off the streets and into housing,” spoke Leslie Perryman, Shelter and Social Service Agency coordinator.
After conducting a point and count and being reported to HUD, counties focus on the priorities from which they saw firsthand such as: veterans, and families with young children and use this count to view the initiatives and priorities on how to lower the rate of homelessness in the area.
“We need to have more connections to get these people off the streets into housing,” said Perryman.
If you are interested in the Point-in-Time Count for Monroe County this upcoming January, you can be involved by contacting Leslie Perryman at 570-476-9228.
By visiting volunteermonroe.org, you will have access to different volunteer opportunities with these organizations, and will be able to help people that are within your arms reach.
With the upcoming winter filled of ice, snow, wind, and temperatures below freezing, becoming a helping hand within these organizations may save someone from these life threatening conditions and may in the long run improve their life forever.
Email Angalyse at: