Bethlehem Press

Monday, September 16, 2019
contributed photoNew Bethany Ministries flagship building on the corner of Wyandotte and West Fourth Street, Bethlehem. contributed photoNew Bethany Ministries flagship building on the corner of Wyandotte and West Fourth Street, Bethlehem.

Rental assistance offers new way of stabilizing those families in need

Tuesday, August 6, 2019 by Nate Jastrzemski njastrzemski@tnonline.com in Local News

New Bethany Ministries announced last month that a state grant fund will enable the continuation and expansion of a successful family sheltering program.

The Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement (PHARE) awards include $75,000 for rental assistance to families in need.

New Bethany tested rental assistance opportunities with the 2017-18 round of PHARE funds as an incentive for graduates of its transitional family shelter. Women and men with children stay at New Bethany between three and six months while securing employment and seeking permanent housing. The homeless services organization prevented 45 households from becoming homeless since November 2018, and plans to help even more with this new award.

New Bethany Executive Director Marc Rittle explained in an email how PHAIR works. “PHARE is sourced from a few places: Marcellus Shale, the Realty Transfer Tax and the National Housing Trust Fund. New Bethany’s award comes from the Realty Transfer Tax. These funds are dedicated to the expansion of affordable housing in the state.

“We will use these dollars as a safety net for families who, without emergency assistance, will lose their apartment or house. We offer one-time emergency financial assistance, usually one, two, or three months’ rent to help a family that would otherwise become homeless.”

Payments are made directly to a landlord for one time use.

New Bethany’s transitional shelter serves 30 households each year, so being able to assist 45 households in just 10 months is significant, Rittle said. “Our rental assistance fund allows us to help twice as many households, without having to provide direct shelter for every family.”

The rental assistance fund is open to families in the transitional shelter and to any qualifying household that contacts New Bethany. Households qualify for funds when they have a source of income, an inciting incident causing the need for immediate assistance (e.g. an eviction notice or threat of eviction), and a lack of any other source of financial assistance.

“For example,” RIttle explained, “if a household is able to secure emergency funds from a church family or a relative, then we will encourage them to use that resource first.”

The Lehigh Valley has a strong referral network called Connect to Home, and New Bethany is a part of the Lehigh Valley Regional Homeless Advisory Board, a set of participating homeless assistance agencies that communicate with one another on a regular basis. “We know in what cases to refer households to which agency,” Rittle said.

He said word of mouth is also a very strong referral mechanism. “We find that low income families are very familiar with New Bethany services, and know when to turn to us. We are listed in the 2-1-1 database, so when people who need assistance call the phone number 2-1-1, they can be referred to New Bethany when the need matches our service.”

Rittle said New Bethany spent just over $50,000 to assist the 45 people in the past 10 months, and expects to help even more with the new grant.

“Our goal is to provide a secure future for anyone passing through our doors. We offer a hot meal, showers, laundry services, toiletry items, and other emergency supports. This is only the beginning. Our team of case managers ensure that our guests are able to meet their life goals, including assistance in seeking employment, mental health and other counseling services, and finding a place to live.

“Our new rental assistance program is one more way to ensure a level playing field in our community.”

Learn more at newbethanyministries.org