emoment with carl
If it can take a village to raise a child, it takes a community to solve its homelessness problem. While working with the homeless at a winter shelter at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Elizabethtown, Janice Davis, Administrative Assistant in the Biology Department talked to Dr. Jane Cavender of the Biology Faculty about launching a community initiative with Elizabethtown College as the lead partner. Janice and Jane soon brought in Dr. Peggy McFarland of the Social Work Department to work on obtaining a grant. Dr. Rick Basom, Director of the College’s Office of Sponsored Research and Programs, took care of the grant preparation and budgeting, agreeing to make the College the fiscal agent for the effort.

In July 2016, Elizabethtown Community Housing and Outreach Services (ECHOS) began to help individuals experiencing homelessness in the community. Led by Deb Jones, its Director and fellow employee of the College, ECHOS has housed 25 families, helped avoid 27 evictions, and aided 365 families in need over the past 15 months. College students, faculty, and staff have joined community members from a wide range of churches to volunteer thousands of hours to operate the Elizabethtown Winter Shelter, providing a warm and safe overnight stay for those in need. Elizabethtown College athletes launched the Food Recovery Network providing weekly surplus cafeteria food to the winter shelter. Fifteen Biology and Pre-Med students from the College assisted moving families into apartments and relocating furniture for the homeless. Occupational Therapy and Social Work students have assisted in research on the best practices for prevention and intervention.

Deb knows first-hand the insights of homelessness from the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Evicted, by Matthew Desmond, which claims keeping at-risk families in their current housing is vastly cheaper and more humane than helping them once they are homeless. Supporting the homeless once they obtain housing is also vital. “Low-income households earn wages that don’t keep up with housing costs,” explains Deb. “Families may spend over 50 percent of their income on housing, utilities, and transportation, which places them at risk of losing shelter if a crisis occurs. There is also a misconception that homelessness is a ‘city problem’ not a rural one.” One single mom with an infant was delighted to move into her apartment through the assistance of ECHOS and a local church. “I got the apartment! Thank you so much for all your help!” she exclaimed. ECHOS has already served as a model for nearby cities. Janice Davis received a Public Citizen of the Year Award from the National Association of Social Work for her leadership in ECHOS:

http://now.etown.edu/index.php/2016/10/05/janice-davis-receives-public-citizen-of-the-year-award/

This fall, the Elizabethtown community, its church members, college students, staff, and faculty are gearing up once again to help Deb Jones and her team at ECHOS. Educate for Service continues to motivate our community.

Students receive assignments each year to help support and contribute to ECHOS, demonstrating their love of educating for service.

 

Enjoy the moment,

Carl J. Strikwerda,
President


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