Sherrell came to Liberty House late last summer at the age of 18. She was about to enter her senior year in high school - a time that should be fun and exciting; but Sherrell faced challenges many adults could not handle.
As a child, Sherrell was in and out of foster care. She had lost touch with her eight siblings. At one point, she had been adopted by her foster mother, but when she rebelled as a teenager and became too much for her mother to handle, she landed back in the foster care system. When Sherrell turned 18, she was no longer eligible for foster care and found herself homeless.
A concerned friend connected Sherrell with Liberty House, which is a partnership between the YWCA of northcentral Pennsylvania and Lycoming County United Way. It is a goal-orientated bridge housing program for women and women with children who are homeless in the county.
SHERRELL, ONE OF THE SUCCESS STORIES OF THE LYCOMING COUNTY UNITED WAY-FUNDED LIBERTY HOUSE.
"I was concerned that Sherrell would have difficulty adjusting and following the rules at Liberty House," said Vanessa Hunter, Liberty House director. "She was lonely and she had no family and few supports. She was a scared young woman and in many ways, just a child."
To participate in the Liberty House program, several requirements must be met.
"Individuals applying to the program must be residents of Lycoming County and an interview with a member of the Liberty House staff must take place," Hunter explained. "And once these requirements are met, acceptance into the program may be granted based on compliance of Liberty House's rules and regulations. Admittance is also dependent on the availability of space.
"Rent is based on family size and income and a portion of the remaining income is to be kept in a savings program that will be maintained by the resident."
The early months of Sherrell's stay were challenging, according to Hunter, "but we committed to encourage, support, and provide resources so that she would have a positive senior high school year."
Residents of Liberty House receive counseling and are required to attend education, life skills and parenting classes, as appropriate.
"The vision of Liberty House is to empower women to overcome their current situations and teach them to build strong families, become self-sufficient and productive contributors to society," Hunter said. "This service is designed to provide a solid foundation with a well run and monitored program that will offer an opportunity for women and children to flourish and break the cycle of poverty."
Sherrell attended school every day and soon made the honor role.
"Sherrell began to forge new strong and supportive relationships," Hunter said. "We received financial support for Sherrell through a local church that was impressed with her story and her positive attitude. They offered to cover the cost associated with college application fees and high school graduation."
In March, Sherrell knocked on Hunter's office door to tell her she had been accepted at Bloomsburg University. A week later, Sherrell called to say she also had been accepted at Mansfield University. The staff at Liberty House helped Sherrell decide which institution best fit her goals and needs.
The staff at Liberty House attended Sherrell's graduation in June with "great pride." This week, Sherrell will begin classes at Bloomsburg University.
Through its annual funds distribution process determined by community volunteers, United Way allocated $26,578 to Liberty House this year.
"Liberty House provides more than just housing to women," said Scott N. Lowery, executive director of Lycoming County United Way. "Through a series of well-defined goals and objectives, the YWCA's Liberty House offers women an opportunity to develop and achieve their personal goals while leading them to self-sufficiency."
For more information on Liberty House, call the YWCA at 322-4637 or visit www.ywcawilliamsport.org. For more information on Lycoming County United Way or to support the campaign that funds programs like these, visit www.lcuw.org or call 323-9448.