44% of all households struggle to afford basic essentials. Thousands of families are at risk of homelessness or eviction.
In partnership with the Lehigh Valley Regional Homeless Advisory Board, United Way established a landlord engagement program to expand the number of safe, affordable housing units available in the Lehigh Valley for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The goal is to house an additional 125 families.
Housing Advocates Help Families Stay in their Homes
The full and staggering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are just becoming known, and housing ranks as top challenge for families in United Way Community Schools. Every day, families right here in our community face impossible choices. Should I buy groceries or pay the rent? How can I afford to put gas in my car and get diapers for the baby?
Diana, single mom of four living on the southside of Bethlehem, faces those difficult choices every day. Experiencing extreme health issues preventing her from work, she fell one year behind on her rent during the pandemic. Afraid of losing the place her family called home for over 10 years caused Diana extreme stress and anxiety. Diana connected with Bria Dews, a Housing Advocate through New Bethany’s Housing Navigator program.
Thanks to funding from United Way, New Bethany offers a school-based Housing Navigator position to help connect Bethlehem Area School District families in Broughal Middle School as well as Donegan and Fountain Hill Elementary Schools with housing services and benefits that they might be eligible for. The goal is to improve housing security and reduce housing mobility with students and families in United Way Community Schools.
In our Community School network of over 20,000 students, the percent of unstable youth has more than doubled from 10% in the 2019-20 academic year to 23% in 2020-21. United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley (UWGLV) has a solid plan to decrease the rate of student mobility with programs such as the Housing Navigator through New Bethany.
In the program’s first year, about 40 families experiencing financial insecurities received housing assistance. With Bria’s persistence, Diana received the funding to resolve her rental arrears, and her children are able to stay in their home and their schools undisrupted.
“She doesn’t know the impact she has. I was desperate. I wouldn’t sleep. Bria didn’t quit and because of her, we’re still at home,” shared Diana.
Bethlehem Community School families looking for assistance can stop into New Bethany’s Housing Assistance Office on 313 West 4th Street or speak to someone in their child’s school to be connected to resources.
“Affordable housing is a barrier and if families aren’t stable, they have to move. The lack of stability adds stress and affects the academic success
of the student.“
Community School Coordinator at
Donegan Elementary in Bethlehem