YWCA programs serve the community

With its outreach community programs, Liberty House and Wise Options, the YWCA has much to celebrate during its 125th anniversary next year.

“We want to hear from individuals involved in programming here so we can talk to them, learn from them and celebrate with them,” communications and development director Anna Thompson said.

Since 2003, Liberty House has served as a transitional housing program for homeless women and children in Lycoming County.

Wise Options is a safe haven and support service for county residents, providing help and hope to women, men and children surviving domestic violence, sexual assault and other violent crimes. Free and confidential services are provided by Wise Options 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Thompson said the YWCA works closely with police and various local organizations to form partnerships that enable the programs to work for those in need.

About 30 people are employed in the two programs which are housed at the YWCA building at ——- W. Fourth St., Williamsport.

Between the two programs, some 140 people are served annually.

It’s been a busy year for the programs.

“Right now, Wise Options has no beds,” Thompson said.

Each of the program’s 20 beds were occupied as of late July, although the number of available beds have temporarily decreased due to renovations.

Amber Morningstar, program co-director said, it’s important that people realize that Wise Options is a 24-hour shelter.

“We are always there to help victims,” she said.

Thompson attributed the increased demand to perhaps a greater public awareness of the services.

“Our programs continue to stay full, showing there is a need,” program co-director Tara Day-Ulrich said.

At the same time, it continues to be a struggle to ensure more people know about the programs.

“We are always looking for ways to better respond to the needs of homeless women and children in Williamsport,” she said. “Our dream for the future is the stigma for those who need the services will be erased.”

Wise Options helps victims find their next safe option for living, whether it’s a return to home or another location.

“We can help them find employment or to go about finding a job,” Thompson said.

The program includes community education with outreach to schools, churches and groups on topics such as sexual assault awareness, anti-bullying, self-esteem and other issues.

Beyond providing temporary shelter, Liberty House helps provide people with the tools they need for self-sufficiency to make a successful return to the community.

Much of the funding for the programs comes from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the United Way.

The Boutique, an on-site second hand clothing store, also helps raise money for the programs.

“It was created to provide reliable funding for the YWCA,” Thompson said.

The store, which takes donations, serves as a clothing outlet not only for those using the YWCA programs, but for the general public.