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American Rescue Workers hone in on homelessness

More than just thrift stores, the American Rescue Workers offer several programs aimed at alleviating the root issue of homelessness — not having a home.

With two emergency shelters, one for families and another for men, as well as a men’s work rehabilitation shelter, Latricia Scutching, housing coordinator and case manager, said ARW is actively working to reduce vagrancy in the community.

Through the housing first approach, the ARW’s Fresh Start work program focuses on believing that everyone is ready for permanent housing and it is the first step in recreating their future, she said.

“This philosophy is saying that you don’t need to get drug and alcohol counseling first, you don’t need to get mental health counseling first, you need your housing first and then everything will fall into place,” she said.

Once housed at the shelter, the men have a 30-day “blackout” period, focusing on job training, acquiring vital documents, enrolling in supportive services, mental health services and more. Residents are unable to leave the premises during this time and must work in the several jobs involving the thrift store.

The program ends with a job, home and $500 in their savings, all outside of the ARW. The lessons of responsibility, work ethic, soft-skills and others have moved many people into being functional members of society.

The two emergency programs the ARW offer focus on assisting families who are able to house themselves but are unable for a time due to disasters or financial issues.

“These are like individuals who have housing coming up, and they just need an extra week or two to stay here and make more money on their own,” said Scutching. “They get to work with me, and I can be a link to resources in the community.”

The family shelter is provided through a partnership with Saving Grace Shelter at 324 Campbell Street and the men’s shelter is at the ARW main location at 643 Elmira Street.

“Saving grace is the only true emergency shelter within a 60-mile radius,” said Scutching. Those who have nowhere to go may be admitted immediately.

Though AWS does receive some grant funding, Valerie Fessler, director of development and community engagement, said the thrift stores generate 80 percent of the money used to support these programs.

AWS has two thrift store locations in Williamsport, on Elmira and Rose streets, and has seven other locations in Montoursville, Hughesville, Mill Hall, Mifflinburg, Jersey Shore, Lock Haven and Canton.

Revenue from these locations is also used to fund emergency grocery assistance, which helps to feed 750 families monthly and a rent assistance program to keep people housed.

Though extra food can always be donated, Fessler said those willing to give to the community should look to monetary donations to give effectively and allow ARW to be agile with changing times.

“We have resources in the community to purchase things at a at a discounted rate. We can we can make your dollar stretch a lot further than you can,” said Fessler. “The most flexible way to support is to make a donation.”

Hygiene products, however, are always needed, she added.

In the near future, Dawn Astin, business administrator, said AWS current location on Elmira street has fallen into disrepair and will begin a restoration and painting. Estimated to cost $360,000 to $400,000, the repairs are expected to be completed by fall of this year.

“We’re going to have a wonderful looking building, and we’re excited about that because we realized our neighborhood needed a little touching up,” she said.

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