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United Way Impact Grants to Prevent Homelessness, Boost Workforce

by United Way of Berks County

Jun 01, 2021

United Way awarded three additional Impact Grants last week, from the $10 million gift United Way received from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott last year. “The gift from Scott is focused on expanding the work United Way engages in on an ongoing basis. It is an accelerant for funding, beyond annual investments, to support innovative programming to create change, improve lives and strengthen our county following the COVID crisis,” said Tammy White, President of United Way of Berks County.

The three Impact Grants include:

  • Supporting renovations and the operations of Mary’s Shelter’s STRONG program, which provides an 18-month transitional housing program for homeless youth, ages 16-22. Specifically, the $93,900 grant will aid in expanding the staff and the facility, which includes capacity for 20 youth and access to services and supportive adult role models. With over 50% of the youth in the current 10-bedroom youth program requesting or requiring an extension of stay due to the difficulties in securing safe, affordable, appropriate housing or reunification with an extended family member, the trauma-informed care based STRONG program fills a vital need within the community.
  • A $100,000 grant to the Berks Latino Workforce Development Corporation to help purchase and renovate a facility located at 460 S. 6th Street Reading, which is established as Berks Tec Centro and providing occupational training and career services to increase and improve employment opportunities, neighborhood stabilization and the local economy.
  • Supporting the Berks County Mediation Prevention Project with a $332,400 grant to mitigate the increase in eviction cases. Prior to the pandemic, Berks County averaged 4,000 new eviction cases each year; research shows the need for help in 2020 was five times greater than the year before. The grant allows MidPenn Legal to assist with the expansion of a 2020 pilot program in Judge Butler’s Magisterial District Justice Court (MDJ) that provided collaboration with landlords, addressed related needs through referrals to other agencies and developed flexible
    solutions for involved parties. “The grants recently approved will support homeless youth, train and connect unemployed and under-employed people to good jobs and will help families avoid eviction – programs that are needed more than ever due to the pandemic. For example, the increase in Berks Countians facing eviction continues, and with the eviction moratorium expiring at the end of June, more low to moderate- income residents will find themselves in dire circumstances.” shared White. The model for the pilot program was described as a “win-win” as landlords and tenants benefit, and it also provided relief to the court case backlog.” The grant will support expanded staffing for MidPenn Legal to manage the program and continue to support the delivery of the program in at least three Berks County Magisterial District Courts.

Additional Impact Grants will be announced throughout the year. Focused Grants, multi-year grants centered on systemic issues and sustainable impact, are planned for early 2022. An Advisory Committee is in place to guide the framework for collaborative initiatives designed to address root causes on a targeted issue.

“These new grants provide an exciting opportunity for United Way to invest in new and expanded partnerships to accelerate community change, extending critical programming funded annually through the generosity of gifts to the campaign,” added White.

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