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All three of Lebanon County’s commissioners retained their seats after this week’s election. Bill Ames and Robert Phillips, both Republicans, and Jo Ellen Litz, a Democrat, will all serve another term.
The three long-term public servants were congratulated by many of their peers at Thursday morning’s commissioners meeting.
Following a presentation on homelessness, hunger, and poverty by Mike Ritter of Domestic Violence Intervention and a co-chairman of the Lebanon County Coalition to End Homelessness, the commissioners signed a proclamation designating Nov. 16 to 24 as “National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.”
The purpose of the proclamation is to educate the public about the many reasons for homelessness, including the shortage of stable housing in the county, and to encourage support for homeless assistance service providers.
The proclamation read that the commissioners recognize that hunger and poverty are serious problems for many individuals and families in Lebanon County and encouraged the public to work to end homelessness.
Families who struggle with food and shelter issues face obstacles and stereotypes that many people don’t really think about, Ritter said.
Ritter told the commissioners that he would like to give them up-to-date information and statistics on the homeless population, but the Coalition doesn’t have the quality data input equipment to collect information on homeless people.
That is something the Coalition is working toward, Ritter said, along with instituting a “coordinated entry system,” which would allow people in need to make a single call and get through to the agencies who can help them.
That isn’t the case right now, as people in need sometimes have to struggle through a maze of bureaucracy and incorrect information before they can find real help.
“Coordinated entry would match people in our community with the services they need,” Ritter said. “It would also help to structure local services.”
Pennsylvania is working on a statewide information coordinating system to help the homeless population, with a pilot program to begin in Harrisburg, Ritter said.
The Lebanon County Coalition has applied for a $6,000 grant to improve the services currently available.
Their mission, Ritter said, is still to eradicate homelessness.
For the Coalition, Hunger and Homelessness Week will be Nov. 9 to 17, and folks can participate in several events in recognition of the week, Ritter said.
On Wed., Nov. 13, the Coalition is asking folks to have dinner at the Texas Roadhouse in Palmyra from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., where 20 percent of the total food purchase will be donated to the Lebanon County Coalition.
A “scratch and win” event will also be held at the eatery, with tickets available for $5.
On Fri., Nov. 15, it’s “Red Shirt Day,” with everyone asked to wear a red shirt to help raise awareness of the youth experiencing homelessness.
“Selfies” are encouraged and are asked to be posted on social media with the hashtag #iwillbeyourvoice.
In another matter, David Weisnicht, deputy base operations manager at Fort Indiantown Gap, updated the commissioners on the importance of the Gap to the country.
“Fort Indiantown Gap was the most utilized National Guard installment in the country this year, with more than 145,000 troops training at the Gap,” Weisnicht said.
Over the year, the Gap activities included two divisional war exercises and one large public event, the “Walk for the Fallen,” just weeks ago.
More than 700 people participated in the event.
On Nov. 24, demolition training will occur at the Gap, Weisnicht said.
“Thank you for reminding people how vital the Gap is for our national defense and the security of our country,” Commissioner Bob Phillips told Weisnicht. “I don’t think people sometimes recognize the scope of what happens there.”
Commissioner Bill Ames said the Gap was also important for the local economy.
George Mentzer, area representative for the Department of Defense and employer for the National Guard and Reserve, presented each of the commissioners a “Patriot Award” for their service and support of Fort Indiantown Gap.
In other business, Dan Lyons and Betsy Bowman of the Lebanon County Redevelopment Authority asked the commissioners for a resolution to approve the applications for community supported block grants.
In late spring, municipalities may submit project ideas to receive a block grant.
The commissioners also adopted a resolution having to do with fair housing and a resolution to help minorities and women gain full participation in business opportunities.
They approved a contract between WellSpan/Philhaven and the county for crisis intervention services at a cost of $798,600.
Bowman asked for support for a PHARE (Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitative Enhancement) grant, saying that the Authority is working on a grant application for $350,000 to expand the senior repair and maintenance program.
Of that amount, the Redevelopment Authority is asking for $50,000 from the county.
Currently, seniors who qualify for the program receive a $6,000 grant to improve living conditions at their home, but Bowman said, if they have to make modifications to a bathroom, for example, that amount of money won’t come near to covering costs.
Lebanon’s Holiday Parade will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23, and the organizers are asking for $2,500 from the county to help to cover the cost of two large Macy’s-type balloons that will be in the parade.
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Full Disclosure: The campaigns of Bill Ames, Bob Phillips, and Jo Ellen Litz were advertisers on LebTown during the previous election cycle. LebTown does not make editorial decisions based on advertising relationships and advertisers do not receive special editorial treatment. Learn more about advertising with LebTown here.