Jan 26, 2016

Allentown's Homeless Under The Bridge

When the Pawlowski's were crowned in 2006, the homeless were living under the 8th Street Bridge and kids were swimming in Fountain Park Pool, both shown in the old postcard above. While the king set about depreciating the park system, and closing the pool by hiring people with no institutional knowledge of the park system, the queen had a special spot in her heart for the homeless. Though her compassion, her new commission had meetings, but the plight of the homeless never actually improved, being shuttled from one basement floor to another.

This year, an imperfect improvement seemed as if it might help. The changing house at the now abandoned pool was converted into an overnight warming station, complete with beds. Earlier this fall, I complained that because of its remote location,  it was actually an internment camp. Little did I know that unfortunately it was worse than that, because the homeless were forced out Saturday morning into the blizzard. In any direction, it's a very long steep walk to the next shelter from the storm. The director of the Conference of Churches, which manages the facility, explained to The Morning Call; "We did what we were supposed to do and what we are staffed to do," It's not the station's job to remain open during the day — even if there is a blizzard outside.

 In a city with a $Billion Dollars of new development, there is something very sad about this story. At the coming city council meetings,  knowledgeable people will address the council with practical suggestions, about how to address this and other problems. Those sitting up on that dais must start heeding that advise, clearly the existing systems are broken.


Rich Fegley said...

Dude. This has been an issue for several years now. I'm glad this is finally being exposed for the shit storm it really is.

Is this what Jesus would have done?

I know that the Christian community should be ashamed of Ed and Lisa Pawlowski for this homeless situation alone.

I guess everyone is still afraid to say something while Pawlowski is in power.

Oh well, we wait for the FBI to save us.

michael molovinsky said...

rich@6:36, the FBI may end up sweeping some dirt from city hall, but i don't expect them to save us. don't confuse your concern with that of the general public. they are for the most part content, and certainly don't want to get involved. any real change will be a painfully slow process.

Rich Fegley said...

The FBI will save us from Pawlowski and his corruption. Yes? Possible clear out many other corrupt people from the Lehigh Valley?

I agree that any real change will be slow. We will need "good" people to change Allentown for the better.

Anonymous said...

Lots more people will be hurt in the waning days of this administration.
When this nightmare ends, recovery will be very, very slow and unsteady.
This town is in serious trouble.

Monkey Momma said...

I have a question....the paper says, "With a $150,000 budget primarily to pay for two monitors to host the homeless every night, the warming station never turns anyone away"

WHAT...150K is the budget??? Mainly for 2 people to staff this place overnight? And they won't take volunteers? Am I understanding this correctly that two people are making a full time salary to kick people out into a blizzard?

Then the other thing I noticed is that Felch and Stevens have very significantly different accounts of what exactly happened on Saturday. Felch says everything was AOK and went exactly as planned! And Stevens says he scrambled at the last minute to take care of an obvious need that NO ONE HAD PLANNED FOR at all.

So, as it stands now, we don't have a plan in place for the homeless during the daytime??!! With all the vacant taxpayer funded buildings downtown (and there are a LOT...Johnny Mananas, Shulas, and many other stores) it makes no sense to leave anyone outside in the cold. It's disgusting. I am so embarrassed by our town's greed and ineptitude.

michael molovinsky said...

momma@10:21, what's unclear to me is whether the clients had to walk from the pool house to the zion church. that's a long, steep hike from the little lehigh creek up to hamilton street. the juxtaposition of the Revitalization of Allentown, and its treatment of its worst off, is a sad commentary.

Monkey Momma said...

MM, they walked a half a mile during the heart of the storm, according to Stevens' quote in the Call.

I took a walk in snow pants and snowboots on Saturday to get to a neighbor's house on Saturday. Even with proper gear and walking a flat route, it was a really difficult walk! I cannot imagine how these folks made that climb on their own to Zion.

The real hero of this story is Zion church and Stevens. Without their UNPAID VOLUNTEERS (compared to the 2 employees down the hill who get $150K a year to kick people out into blizzards), those homeless people literally would have died. How can the Conference of Churches call this God's work??? And then they claim they were doing what they "were supposed to do and what [they] are staffed to do." (That's Mr. Felch's quote.) Frankly, the excuses offered here only make things look much worse. It's disgusting.

Anonymous said...

Understand that regardless of what has been said in the Morning Call, the Conference of churches did NOT work with Zion's to create the plan for Saturday, or with St. Paul's and Ripple to create the plan for Sunday. Well after people were sent into the blizzard, concerned advocates contacted City Council. Council contacted others at City, and City worked to make sure a third church was also open.

Opening Zion's BEYOND the breakfast hour was a contingency enacted by Zion's because the Conference HAD NO CONTINGENCY.

Volunteers and advocates are REPEATEDLY told by the current Conference regime that they don't know what they're doing when it comes to helping the homeless, and so now suddenly that same regime says Zion's was always the contingency and they're totally cool with that? That's a line of BS from the powers that be, unfortunately.

michael molovinsky said...

momma@11:04, if they indeed walked all the way from the pool house it's much, much longer than half a mile. also, in regard to the paid employees, the shelter is only open for less than 4 months a year.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything Monkey Momma has said on this. It's disgraceful.

The whole point of the Conference of Churches is in their title - "Conference." It was intended to be the congregations of the County coming together to pool resources to work toward the common good. It's now evolved into it's own entity, not reporting to anyone but itself. That's a damn shame and needs to get fixed.

I know some of the board members, I've already started reaching out directly to them. Felch won't address this, it's going to have to come from the board itself.

In case anyone wants to know if they know any board members, here's the link: http://lehighchurches.org/who-we-are/board-staff/

The Banker

Anonymous said...

What happened to ending chronic homelessness by 2017. I understand that 1.5 million in fedetal grants were handed out some time ago...i guess the well went dry.

LVCI said...

I don't want to go into too much detail but when I worked in radio I did several 15 minute on air interviews with various leaders of the council of churches over a period of two years. From what I gathered the conference operates similar in which the way franchises work in the private sector.

Unprofitable churches are largely excluded eventually either ending up being shut down or to fare on their own if they haven't the means to contribute to the council. From what I gather St. Paul's and Zion and what they are doing are left on their own to survive by their own devices.

They deserve a huge amount of appreciation. Think of them as operating independently and apart from the council as any private sector business would who were not part of a franchise. That in of itself makes them more independent, efficient and responsive in each of their localized areas to the needs of those who they serve.

h/t to each and everyone of them. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong.

doug_b said...

This is what management is for - to handle dynamic situations. This WAS an emergency. There must have been someone - police / fire / Salvation Army / social services that could have helped. In the private sector people get fired for this.

Jamie Kelton said...

This is an absolutely Appalling act of negligence by the staff of the shelter. Yes, I understand that the shelter closes during the day. It's not a residence. But good god, there was a major blizzard going on outside and these people were thrown out on the street.

This monumental act of STUPIDITY needs to be taken to the City Council. These people could have DIED of exposure walking up the hill to Zion's church in a strong wind with snow coming down as heavy as it was.

This is sickening.