Women’s Resource Center seeks housing assistance grant

BELLEFONTE – The Centre County Women’s Resource Center (CCWRC) is seeking about $300,000 in grant funding to assist county residents in need of a temporary home during rough times.

During their Tuesday meeting, the Centre County Commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, in support of CCWRC applying to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women for a transitional housing assistance grant. The MOU is between not only the county, but also Housing Transitions, Inc., PA CareerLink Centre County, MidPenn Legal Services, and Bridge of Hope. The grant is meant to help victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.

According to Anne Ard, executive director of the CCWRC, the grant is a continuation grant that the CCWRC previously applied to and received funding from. If awarded, the grant funding would start in October and be used over a period of three years.

“I’m very hopeful that it will be funded because we’ve done some really good work in the past three years under the initial federal grant,” Ard said.

Currently, the CCWRC provides 30-day shelter stay, but that has proven to not always be enough.

“The goal with transitional housing is to move beyond emergency services,” Ard said. “If you are a victim of sexual or domestic violence, 30 days is a very short period of time to put together the skills and the resources that you need to move toward self-sufficiency.”

With the grant funding, five additional housing units would be added, Ard said. The transitional housing program, which supplements the bridge housing program the center has in conjunction with the county, provides transitional housing for between six and 24 months.

If the grant application is approved, the total units in the CCWRC’s transitional housing program would be up to eight. There are more requests for the housing than can be provided, so the program does have an “interest list” for interested individuals.

For three of the transitional housing leases, they would be held with the client, who Ard said would work directly with the landlord. This situation would help the client build some needed skills to help them move onto the next step in their lives. The other two leases would be held by the CCWRC, who would provide a little more support and assistance as clients learn needed skills.

The program assists all genders and sexual orientations, something which the CCWRC strives to do for all of its programs, Ard said. It may not happen often, she said, but the CCWRC has assisted males with its transitional housing program.

“What’s unique about this grant is that we have really targeted working with some underserved populations,” Ard said.

One of those populations is international and immigrants victims of domestic and sexual violence. Ard said that, compared to other counties in the state, Centre County has a higher population of these residents.

The CCWRC has been working more to help these types of victims, Ard explained, and now has some advocates with multilingual skills. The center’s Civil Legal Representation Project has also developed a specialization in working with immigrant populations.

The second population is residents who have been incarcerated. Ard said that close to 70 percent of the female inmate population has experienced domestic or sexual violence.

“It’s particularly difficult for those folks to access, sometimes, rental agreements,” she said. “They don’t have credit, they don’t have the kinds of work histories that might lend themselves to being able to enter a landlord-tenant relationship.”

The third underserved population CCWRC is targeting is individuals with disabilities, whether those disabilities be physical, mental, emotional, or intellectual.

More information about the CCWRC’s transitional housing program can be found online at www.ccwrc.org/services/transitional-housing/.