The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

June 30, 2014

Grant sought to assist homeless

EBENSBURG — Plans for a Cambria County homeless shelter to fill the void created with the closing of the Salvation Army facility are moving forward with funds being sought to help cover operational costs.  

If awarded, a grant application approved by the county commissioners also will provide funding for the Women’s Help Center and the county’s rapid re-housing activities through the Community Action Partnership of Cambria County, said Larry Custer, executive director of the Cambria County Redevelopment Authority.

The county is seeking $300,000 in funding through the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development’s Emergency Solutions Grant Program.

In agreeing to apply for the money, Cambria County assumed responsibility of guaranteeing the matching funds if the grant is awarded, but it will come from a variety of sources, Custer said.

That match will come from a variety of federal, state and local agencies and service providers, including some of the funding Cambria received annually through the state’s Community Development Block Grant program.

Service agencies have been scrambling to provide shelter for the homeless since the Sept. 30 closing of the 23-bed facility of the Salvation Army shelter.

Bids for renovation of a five-bedroom structure in Dale Borough recently were awarded, Custer said, and work is expected to begin later this month.

“I want the facility open by Thanksgiving,” Custer said of the effort he has been spearheading.

Depending on the makeup of those seeking shelter, Custer said the facility will be able to sleep between eight and 12 people.

Along with the bedrooms, the shelter will have a kitchen, a small parlor and an office-entrance area, he said Monday.

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown will operate the shelter and pay the bills, Custer said.

Jean Johnstone, executive director of Catholic Charities, said the shelter is being developed and will be operated through public-private partnership.

A key component is case management for everyone seeking shelter at the facility, she said.

“This is a way of giving them a hands up. This is to help people be successful,” she said.

Part of the management will be equipping those in need of shelter to find permanent housing and deal with other issues that may have led to them seeking housing.

“This is not a place to come in at 5 p.m, get a shower and a meal, go to bed, get up in the morning and leave,” she said.

A rapid re-housing program has been meeting homeless needs since last fall. The program places homeless families and individuals in motels for three to seven days, but is very expensive, Johnstone said.

Along with case management, the shelter will provide full-time staff.

“We want to make sure the house is an asset to the community and that the community is safe,” she said.

Kathy Mellott covers the Cambria County Courthouse for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at

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