Ambler recently hosted a roundtable discussion focused on what can be done in Harrisburg to bolster affordable housing and hunger programs across the commonwealth.
Committee members met with staff and volunteers at Family Promise Montco PA, a community organization with 40 years of experience in ensuring families have adequate access to food, shelter and support.
After learning more about the work being done in Montgomery County to combat food insecurity and provide safe housing for people experiencing homelessness, members of the state House Majority Policy Committee made food donations to the organization’s food pantry.
“The pandemic exposed some of the state’s most serious problems, including a lack of affordable housing and a lack of proper funding for numerous human services that are supposed to serve as safety nets on Pennsylvania’s worst days,” said Rep. Ben Sanchez, who co-hosted the event. “Fortunately, in Montgomery County we saw dedicated organizations, like Family Promise, help ensure that homelessness and hunger are rare and brief for many families and children.”
The roundtable discussion in Ambler included Family Promise Executive Director Marsha Eichelberger, who provided details on her organization. The committee then traveled to the organization’s food pantry in Roslyn.
“Homelessness and its devastating aftereffects on families and children can no longer be overlooked,” said Rep. Melissa Cerrato, who co-hosted the event. “We know figures for children experiencing homelessness are under reported, so it’s promising to see the success of Family Promise, an organization that accepts and provides service to all people.”
After meeting in Ambler, the committee then traveled to Family Promise’s food pantry, which is located on the campus of Salem Baptist Church in Roslyn. The food pantry lost almost every single volunteer during the pandemic when the need was greater than ever, but they were able to find volunteers to serve the community.
“We will never be able to address the biggest issues in our communities unless we provide people with the tools they need to become financially stable and self-sufficient,” Policy Committee Chairman Ryan Bizzarro said. “Family Promise serves as a model for organizations throughout the state, in large part for their ability to provide short-term relief and the tools to unlock life-long success.”
Pennsylvania House Democrats have a number of bills to address affordable housing and youth homelessness.
“One of the most important aspects we discussed was the fact Family Promise does not just provide food, services or housing,” said Rep. Melissa Shusterman, who serves as the committee’s deputy vice chair. “When so many families are only one emergency away from needing assistance, Family Promise provides something just as important as services – which is dignity and a pathway to a better life.”
Reps. Mark Rozzi and Donna Bullock have one bill to provide a pathway to educational success for students experiencing homelessness, and they have another bill to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to enter into contracts in order to secure housing, acquire bank accounts, obtain loans and apply to schools – in order to address the alarming number of children experiencing homelessness who are vulnerable to labor exploitation and sex trafficking. Rep. Carol Hill-Evans has a bill to assist veterans experiencing homelessness. Bizzarro has a bill to provide students experiencing homelessness with the funds needed to acquire a driver’s license – opening a door for obtaining assistance, doctor’s appointments and more.
Information about this hearing and other House Majority Policy Committee hearings can be found at pahouse.com/policy. Photos to be used for publication can be found at pahouse.com/PolicyCommittee/Galleries. Testimony for this event and past events can be found at pahouse.com/PolicyCommittee/HearingMaterials.