Being homeless is not a crime. People experiencing homelessness have the same rights as those with stable housing. These rights include: the right to enjoy public space, the right to housing, the right to seek and maintain employment, the right to maintain hygiene needs, the right to receive meals and other needed items in public spaces and the right to privacy and protection of information.
We must pass a Homeless Bill of Rights and ensure its full implementation by eliminating and amending ordinances that do not support the Bill.
Housing is a human right. Between blighted properties, warehouses and empty shopping centers there is more than enough housing to ensure that everyone has a place to call home. We have to ensure that our permitting, inspection process and zoning are supportive to organizations that rehabilitate homes to sell or lease to low-income and/or homeless individuals.
Support and Expand the Homeless Commission
I introduced and passed legislation forming a Homeless Commission in Allentown. This commission will serve as the policy advisory board to the Mayor and City Council. The City needs a full-time staff dedicated to the work of the commission. This staff member would focus on developing a 5-year plan, address emergency needs, work with Council and the Mayor on drafting and implementing policy, serve as a liaison between the city commission and the Regional Homeless Advisory Board.
Nobody who has served our country should be homeless. There are many tiny home models to follow in the country, where veterans have a specialized community of tiny or micro homes and wrap-around onsite services. Unlike other services, a tiny home provides a Veteran with privacy, a sense of security and the opportunity to reintegrate at a comfortable pace.
Year Round Emergency Shelter
As the third largest city in Pennsylvania, it is unacceptable that we do not have an inclusive year round shelter. Part of the problem is that well-meaning organizations and institutions operate in silos. Non-profits, the City, County and State need to collaborate and combine resources. The shelter must be a full-service facility with case management, mental health and drug and alcohol counseling
Youth and LGBTQ+ Homelessness
The City must change the zoning codes to allow for Host Homes. We must also provide financial and non-monetary incentives for people to become a host home such as grants to renovate their property. Host homes connects youth ages 16-24 experiencing housing instability with volunteer homes. Housing is not always enough. Many youth are missing the sense of belonging and family.