The Cranberry Eagle
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Article published October 24, 2012

Housing summit identifies priorities

Ed Biller
Butler Eagle

Housing affordability in Butler County and programs to aid prison parolees will top the list of community agencies' concerns in coming few years, according to participants at the Butler County Housing Summit.

Perry O'Malley, executive director of the county housing and redevelopment authority, said agencies participating in the summit included those that have low-income clients and that span a range of services, including health, housing and education resources.
“It's a way to identify problems your agency may be facing and how best to address those problems,” O'Malley said of the Sept. 17 meeting.
United Way of Butler County, the county Center for Community Resources, Irene Stacy Community Mental Health Center and Catholic Charities were among the attendees.
The event focused on the need for affordable housing as well as improved military veterans services and better identification of young adults in need.

Gas driling a factor
According to O'Malley, a principal reason for the lack of affordable housing, both permanent and temporary, is the impact of Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling.
“The units that are available, and there's not a lot of them in rural areas, are no longer affordable due to the increased demand in housing for Marcellus Shale employees and those who benefit from that industry in the area,” O'Malley said.
Another area of concern, he said, is the 16-to-24 age group because they often are stubborn in seeking help. Also, agencies must continue their efforts to ensure veterans receive services.

Sexual offenders
Finally, he said the county still needs a way to deal with violent or sexual offenders attempting to reenter society after a stint in jail.
“That's just a population nobody knows what to do with. We have no programs for them,” O'Malley said.
“There are no local resources and nobody addressing that. Perhaps the federal government will step in (to help).”
Amanda Feltenberger, director of service integration for county human services and co-chairman of the Local Housing Options Team (LHOT), said county programs serve children and families who such offenders may not be near as a condition of parole, and many of the programs also are near schools or playgrounds.
“We all realize that's a problem, but we don't know how to tackle it. It's a public safety issue to just have these people out on the street,” she said.

Ex-inmates needs
“Housing programs for the (prison) re-entry population, in general, is a very high priority for us,” Feltenberger said.
“What we tend to see happen is people who come out with nothing, no money, no support. Lots of times, they are involved with support programs in jail, but if we can't get them out of the situation they were in before they were incarcerated, nothing has changed for them even if they are trying to better themselves.”
Regarding general housing needs, Feltenberger said human services can provide emergency housing, but relies on the housing authority to provide more permanent solutions.
“Typically, our clients have a lot of needs, so we have them in a supportive housing program. Eventually, they get stable and are able to leave,” Feltenberger said.
The previous county housing summit was in 2008. Two of the problems identified then were issue involving the homeless and services for military veterans.