Coalition discusses wide array of options in Lycoming County for reentry

For individuals trying to reenter society after serving time in prison or suffering a tough break, Lycoming County is offering plenty of options to help them get back in step.

Many of those agency programs were the topic of discussion Monday during the county Reentry Coalition meeting at Trade and Transit Centre II.

It’s all about getting individuals in need the help they need, guiding them to a multitude of agencies and organizations that provide emergency and temporary assistance and giving them a pathway toward a more stable and productive life, according to Jennifer McPherson, reentry coordinator.

Among the new items of discussion is a means of getting immediate help through dialing 211 to access a network of services for the homeless, according to Tara Day, co-program director at the YWCA.

Another new program is having UPMC Susquehanna be a walk-in site, providing the facilities and information management systems for assessment and pre-screening of those seeking shelter and ways to get them in touch with other agencies to prevent homelessness.

That includes individuals who are “couch-surfing,” slang for living from place to place without any permanent place to call home, Day said.

“There is no ‘wrong door’ approach for assessments of homelessness” in Lycoming County, she said.

Thrift stores operated by the American Rescue Workers are a good way for the public to support the social agency, which provides shelters for men, said Mike Kane, an agency spokesman.

Family Promise, at 635 Hepburn St., offers assistance for up to 14 individuals with children under 18. Specifically, it has a day center for families who can take showers and get transportation to work or school. During the evening, a 15-passenger van takes the families to up to 15 host churches with 10 congregations, said Lisa Bower, an intern with the agency.

At Journey House, families live in transitional housing for 18 to 24 months and are taught to become self-sufficient, while YMCA offers Wise Options, Liberty Options and Liberty House for women, many of whom arrive from situations of domestic or sexual abuse.

Saving Grace, a shelter on Campbell Street, takes individuals in need of immediate housing for 90 days, many of whom are victims of domestic violence.

STEP Inc. offers supportive means to stablizing individuals who face pre-eviction or pre-foreclosure, according to Shannon Wanamaker.

“We get referrals from our partners and we don’t say no to anyone who needs that stabilization,” she said.

Veterans receive assistance through Veterans Multi-Service Center, according to Dustin Kinley. The service is open to military veterans who have not been court-martialed or dishonorably discharged, he said.

The center staff can assist clients with finding hotel rooms, dealing with landlords given and making appointments for legal matters, Kinley said.

When the Marcellus Shale industry arrived, rents soared, and that led to an affordable housing problem, said Kim Wheeler, deputy director of county planning.

But through natural gas impact fees under the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability Rehabilitative Enhancement program, the county has been able to apply $7.1 million in such funding since about 2012, she said.

The funding enabled the development of a 40-apartment complex at Memorial Homes, 1609 Memorial Ave., 32 units for senior citizens at Grove Street Commons and, soon, a senior, affordable housing project to be built in Muncy Township.