Housing insecurity is rising in Pike County, advocates say

Pike County Hands of Hope volunteers say the January count of homeless people falls short of the actual number

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  • Pike County Hands of Hope members, from left: Fred McNeely, Jim Pierce, Karen Rice, Teresa Rocco, and the Rev. Bob Misiak (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • An letter of thanks to Pike County Hands of Hope (identifying information redacted)

Help is here

Pike County Hands of Hope refers people in need to food pantries and community meal programs for immediate relief. The following free community meals are available:
Dingmans Ferry United Methodist Church, 115 Myck Road, Dingmans Ferry, 570-828-2288 — A London broil meal is served on the third Saturday of every month, 5-7 p.m.
St. John Neumann Church, 705 Route 739 (next to the new Ryan’s Deli), Lords Valley, 570-775-6791 — First Sunday of every month, 2-4 p.m.
St. Vincent De Paul Church, Route 739 (across from Ray and Charles Deli), 570-686-4545. Third Sunday of every month, 2-4 p.m. A sharing fund at the church helps individuals and families pay their bills.
Milford United Methodist Church, 206 East Ann St., Milford, 570-296-8080 — Fourth Friday of every month, 5-7 p.m.
St. Patrick Church Hall, 111 East High St., Milford, 570-491-2488 (call to let them know you’re coming) — Fourth Sunday of every month, 2-4 p.m. Sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.
Call in advance to be sure of the times and dates of food distribution for these food assistance programs:
Milford Ecumenical Food Pantry, 321 5th Street, Milford, 570-618-1568 — Fridays, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Holy Trinity Lutheran Food Pantry, 16 Delaware Crest Drive, Dingmans Ferry, 570-828-7411 — Daily, 9 a.m.-noon
Blooming Grove Food Pantry, 705 Route 739, Lords Valley, 570-775-6791 — Third Thursday of every month, 9:30 a.m.
The Church at Hemlock Farms/Salvation Army, Hemlock Farms, corner of Willow and Lookout Drive, 570-775-6787 (call to register and schedule service) — Third Monday of every month, 4-6:30 p.m.
Lords Valley Community Church/Hands of Hope, 693 Route 739 Suite 2, Lords Valley, 570-576-1964 (call ahead to schedule service) — Second Thursday of every month, 2-6 p.m.
Paupack Methodist Church Pantry Loaves and Fishes, Route 507, Greentown, 570-226-8322 — First Friday every month
Greeley Good Cheer Food Pantry, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 205 Route 590, Greeley, 570-226-3966 or 570-685-6270
Newfoundland Food Pantry, New Moravian Church, 982 Main St., Newfoundland, 570-676-8201 — Second Friday of every month
Bushkill Outreach, 12 Route 209, Bushkill (Middle Smithfield and Lehman Townships only), 570-588-0660 — Tuesday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-noon
Lords Valley Community Church, 707 Route 739, Lords Valley, 570-503-6644 — The church, in partnership with Second Harvest Food Pantry, distributes thousands of dollars' worth of food each month.

By Frances Ruth Harris

— The people among us experiencing homelessness live under bridges, in the woods, in sheds, and in cars. They live inside and under rock formations along the Delaware River.

On Jan. 23, advocates for the homeless conducted an annual count in Pike County as part of the nationwide program Point In Time. The count is done to discover the needs of homeless people while increasing awareness and prompting action.

The advocates who volunteer for Pike County Hands of Hope are tasked not only with counting homeless people but finding them. Embarrassed and afraid, they sometimes run away as the volunteers approach. Some are veterans.

Pike County Hands of Hope members Fred McNeely, Jim Pierce, Karen Rice, Teresa Rocco, and the Rev. Bob Misiak told The Courier about their work to meet an uptick in need. The number of homeless and near-homeless people who contacted Pike County Hands of Hope in 2018 has increased substantially, they said.

The one-day count this year puts the number of homeless people in Pike County in the single digits. But, the volunteers said, the actual number is greater than those found on one January search day. In December alone, the organization received 21 calls for help. Eight of the callers were homeless or near-homeless.

Any pedestrian strolling the streets of Milford, whether or not they realize it, are passing people who have unmet needs for housing, food, and medicine, they said.

Volunteers often find beds and tents and other evidence of homelessness — but no actual people. They recently found sleeping bags under one of the area's bridges. But they can't count the beds and sleeping bags, only people.

The members said they want to catch people before they became homeless. Many local people are a car payment or rent payment away from losing their place of residence.

Following ChristPike County Hands of Hope is "Christ based," the members said, and doesn't take money from programs or subsidies because complex organizations have unpredictable cash flows. They said Christ leads them to do what they do in their 100 percent volunteer-run organization. They work with local churches to feed and house those in need on a case-by-case basis.

The organization's annual budget ranges from $15,000 to $18,000. The money comes from fundraising and donations from individuals. The United Way awards the organization $2,000 a year.

The Hands of Hope summer yard sale brought in $5,000. Some dropped off donations without buying anything. One anonymous donor came with a check for $2,000.

As funds permit, the organization provides financial assistance to those with housing-related needs, including help with two-week rentals, relocating, and emergency assistance with toiletries, food, and clothing.

Members said their dream is to have a building with apartments to shelter those in need. There are no homeless shelters in Wayne or Pike counties. People seeking shelter are sent to neighboring areas, including Stroudsburg and Lackawanna/Luzerne counties in Pennsylvania and Port Jervis in New York.

Pike County Hands of Hope donates to the Stock Pot of Hope, which serves no-cost meals on the last Friday of each month at Milford United Methodist Church at 206 East Ann Street.

Hands of Hope needs more volunteers. To volunteer, leave a message at the Hands of Hope hotline, 570-296-4673, or email info@Pike CountyHOH.org.

Contributions may be mailed to P.O. Box 654, Milford, PA 18337

For more information visit pikecountyhoh.org.


Total primary calls:

2016 — 190

2017 — 238

2018 — 241

The percentage of total primary calls from the homeless or near-homeless:

2016 — 37 percent

2017 — 35 percent

2018 — 46 percent

A primary call is the first time a person calls Pike County Hands of Hope. The person may call many times after that, but the first call is the only one counted in the statistics kept by the organization.

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