Skip to content

Pennsylvanians Face a Growing Risk of Homelessness, Need Affordable Housing

PA Workforce Development Association hosts panel on homelessness and workforce development

Camp Hill, Pa. (Dec 9, 2021)  –  The Pennsylvania Workforce Development Association (PWDA) will hosted a virtual panel on the growing risk of eviction and foreclosure in the Commonwealth and how the workforce development system can help address it.

Guests on the panel are Robert Cherry, Chief Executive Officer at Partner4Work, the leader of the public workforce system for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County; Robert Henry, Administrator of the Chester County Partnership to End Homelessness at the Chester County Department of Community Development; and Mike McKenna, Chief Executive Officer of Tenfold, a nonprofit organization providing solutions to housing challenges in Lancaster County and Southcentral Pennsylvania region.

PWDA Executive Director Carrie Anne Amann will host the one-hour webinar that is part of the PA@Work series connecting leaders to collaborate, strategize, build capacity, and identify innovative solutions that lift up Pennsylvania workers, employers and communities.

“The PA@Work series focuses on the intersection of workforce development and the social determinants of health, including access to care, food, insurance coverage, income, housing, and transportation,” Amann said. “Our association represents the entire workforce system across the Commonwealth, and there is perhaps no more pressing challenge for so many working families as access to safe and affordable housing.”

Mike McKenna says that his agency, which works to ensure quality, fair and affordable housing that is inclusive to  all people through proactive coaching, education, lending, and advocacy, says in Lancaster County alone there are over 5,000 applications in the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

“Many people experiencing homelessness are working, but homelessness is just one symptom of a much broader set of challenges, which include systemic racism, a shortage of affordable housing, and the zoning obstacles faced when trying to build housing closer to where the jobs are outside of Lancaster City,” McKenna said.

Robert Henry agrees, and said that this year his agency has funneled more than $34.5 million in Emergency Rental Assistance Program money to Chester County families still recovering from the economic impact of the pandemic.

“We have to get more creative in finding solutions,” Henry said, pointing as an example to the Promise Program at West Chester University, which provides year-round campus housing and wrap around services to students experiencing homelessness.

Robert Cherry, who took over the leadership role at Partner4Work in July, pointed out the many obstacles people face in securing and keeping affordable housing.

“We see people hit a “benefits cliff,” when they start to make too much money to qualify for housing subsidies and other supports,” he said. He said he hopes to bring programs like the one he participated in Milwaukee that allows people to retain their housing benefits if they save, rather than spend, the money that would otherwise have disqualified them from public assistance.

“Right now, we all see that employers across the Commonwealth need employees, but many communities refuse to allow new, affordable housing to be built,” Cherry said. He added that the workforce system is a key ally on this critical issue.

For more information and to watch a replay of the webinar, please visit the PWDA’s website at https://pwda.memberclicks.net/learningseries.

 

Pennsylvania Workforce Development Association represents the state’s 22 local workforce development boards, and through them hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians looking for living wage and community-strengthening jobs.  PWDA members operate the state’s 60+ PA CareerLink® centers.

###

PA Workforce Development Association