Delaware County Homeless Shelters Still Face Consequences of COVID: A look into the present state of several homeless shelters in Delaware County.

Community Action Agency of Delaware County’s three homeless shelters have reached capacity, causing officials to rely on a motel/hotel voucher system. On Feb. 2, the Delaware County Council passed a $350,000 raise to Community Action Agency of Delaware County for shelter operations, specifically to aid the motel/hotel voucher system until June 30. People experiencing homelessness that are placed in motels or hotels will also go through housing assistance programs until they can receive an alternate housing placement. 

Edward T. Coleman, the director of Community Action Agency of Delaware County, shared the ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased homelessness in the area. “For years and years, there’s always been a motel program, going back to when we started. Now, because of COVID, it’s been used a lot,” Coleman stated. Volunteers have hopes that the COVID will continue to be addressed, allowing the shelters to maintain capacity numbers. 

Gina Ruggieri, the director of the Life Center of Eastern Delaware County, has emphasized how the COVID-19 pandemic mitigation restrictions generated logistical difficulties at the shelter. The shelter decreased the amount of beds available to ensure that social distance could take place. Ruggieri explained that the shelter has decreased to 32 beds from an original full capacity of 50 beds. “It had been down to 30 about a month or two ago but Ruggieri said they added two more because they had an increase in women needing shelter,” Delco Times shared. 

The Life Center of Eastern Delaware formerly had a daily dinner program in which churches and community organizations brought and served dinner to the residents of the shelter and other people experiencing homelessness. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, the daily dinner program had to cease since a lot of people were not comfortable serving on-site due to the rise of COVID-19 cases. Instead, groups provide meals on a drop-off basis. “It’s definitely been a constant change of protocol and procedure to keep everybody safe in a practical way. We’ve been doing everything that we possibly can to help,” Ruggieri stated. 

In addition to the housing and feeding of people experiencing homelessness, Delaware County shelters have been trying to increase their volunteer tax program. The volunteer tax program supplies free tax preparation services for county individuals, as well as the multiple locations amongst the county where these services are provided. Volunteers receive IRS training and certification through the agency and receive flexible hours with particular needs on weekdays, evenings, and weekends. 

Through the volunteer tax program, financial literacy is allotted as the counselor works alongside the client to find out the optimal way to use their refund with choices such as paying off bills, retiring, debt or investing. ““This is really a great opportunity for people to take advantage of free tax preparation and financial literacy. It’s provided free of charge for people whose incomes are limited. It’s a friendly place to go where we can talk about what needs they have,” Coleman explained.

For anyone interested in volunteering with Community Action Agency, they are asked to call 610-874-8451. 

Sources: Delco Times

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