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‘Perfect Storm’ for More Homelessness Could Impact LV, Hellertown

Homeless Tom Hellertown

The current economic environment paired with a high-priced housing market and the end of the federal eviction moratorium provides all the ingredients for a “perfect storm” that could lead to an increase in homelessness in the Lehigh Valley area.

Est. Read Time: 4 mins

A news release distributed this week by the Allentown Rescue Mission (ARM), which provides support and shelter for homeless men in the Lehigh Valley, contained a stark warning: the current economic environment paired with a high-priced housing market provides all the ingredients for a “perfect storm.”

The storm ARM referenced won’t bring heavy rain and flooding like the remnants of Hurricane Ida did, but rather, it could bring an increase in homelessness to the area.

ARM issued the release in response to the end of the federal eviction moratorium on Aug. 26, which it said could contribute to an increase in homelessness, as many renters continue to face financial hardship brought on by the COVID pandemic.

“Early indicators show those individuals still owe rent, back rent, applicable fees, penalties and interest now that the order has ended,” rescue mission officials said.

Homeless Tom Hellertown

Although the Saucon Valley is often considered to be an affluent area, Hellertown is home to at least one homeless person: a man named Tom, who can sometimes be seen sitting in a red chair along Rt. 412, under the west side of the I-78 overpass.

Housing insecurity affects individuals all over the Lehigh Valley, including in Hellertown, where several Saucon Source readers have recently asked about a homeless man who’s been sheltering underneath the I-78 overpass on Rt. 412, at the north end of the borough.

“Tom,” who can sometimes be seen in a red plush chair under the overpass, told Saucon Source he prefers his overpass habitat to group shelters or so-called “tent cities,” where he said restrictions and interactions with other residents can sometimes lead to conflicts.

Tom said local police officers keep an eye out for him, and he is clearly known by many in the area, as he waved in response to the beeps of passing motorists during a conversation.

Fortunately, whether they choose to take advantage of them or not, there are resources available for Tom and other people facing housing insecurity in the Hellertown area.

ARM is one of the best-known, as it has been caring for homeless men for more than 120 years. The mission provides safe lodging, clothing and three meals a day for the men in its emergency shelter and long-term programs, along with counseling, educational resources, life skills courses, transportation to medical and social services appointments, housing and employment assistance, and guidance during the often-stressful transition back to being a productive member of the community.

“Now that the eviction ban has ended, the Allentown Rescue Mission will do everything we can to help,” said CEO Stuart Smith. “Whether it’s a few nights in our Emergency Shelter or longer help, we will do whatever we can to get them back on their feet.”

With the federal eviction moratorium now lifted, the Allentown Rescue Mission is forecasting a potential rise in homelessness, as many people continue to struggle financially in the wake of the COVID pandemic. Fortunately, the Lehigh Valley is home to several homeless shelters, all of which are prepared to offer aid to those experiencing housing insecurity.

Visit the Mission’s website to learn more about the assistance they provide for local homeless men.

Statistically, homelessness affects men more than women, with an estimated 70 percent of all homeless individuals being male. However, there are local organizations that provide assistance for families, women and children experiencing homelessness, too.

Sixth Street Shelter, a program of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, provides temporary housing for Lehigh Valley homeless families with children.

The shelter provides 25 individual family apartments, and it is the only shelter in the Lehigh Valley to offer homeless families a furnished apartment with a complete kitchen.

“At the Sixth Street Shelter, we intervene in the crises in the lives of more than 100 homeless families per year, showing genuine love to more than 200 children who need all the love they can get,” the shelter’s website says. “Our love extends to their parents, too, as we do all we can to guide them to a more stable life in which good decisions are made, their ability to pay their bills is proved and they can get on with the lives folks like us take for granted.”

Sixth Street Shelter encourages individuals experiencing or at risk for homelessness to dial 211 to be put in contact with United Way’s community help-line. Individuals from out-of-state should call (855) 501-6785.

The organization also has two walk-in locations that are open from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday:

Pathways (located within the Lehigh County “Conference of Churches” building)

  • 457 W. Allen Street, Allentown, PA 18102, (610) 439-8653

The 3rd Street Alliance

  • 41 N. 3rd Street, Easton, PA 18042, (610) 258-6271

Valley Youth House is a local organization dedicated to improving the lives of young people, many of whom are struggling with housing insecurity or homelessness.

Their Lehigh Valley emergency shelter, located at 539 Eighth Avenue in Bethlehem, is equipped to assist homeless youth through case management, individual, family and group counseling, life skills education, adventure-based experiential education and recreational activities, and therapeutic follow-up and aftercare services.

The Lehigh Valley emergency shelter provides aid for youth experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity between the ages of 12 and 17. For more information, call (610) 691-1200.

Another important resource Valley Youth House offers is their street outreach program called the Synergy Project.

“Through this program we offer survival supplies, peer support, informal counseling, information, referral services and assistance to et off the streets (if desired),” said Mary Harvilla, the organization’s Marketing and Communications Officer.

Additional information and resources can be accessed from the organization’s website.


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Jonny Hart

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