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Butler County claims housing emergency for families’ sake

The Butler County commissioners on Wednesday unanimously approved the use of $50,000 toward finding a solution for families in need of emergency housing.

“We have a housing crisis,” said Brandon Savochka, director of Butler County Human Services. “We are starting to see more families who are in need of emergency housing.”

Savochka said the majority of people who sought emergency housing in the past were individual adults. He said that paradigm has shifted.

According to county data, in the past 12 months, 83 families have requested emergency housing — a 75% increase from the 48 families who requested assistance in the same time frame one year earlier.

According to national stastics, the trend is noticeable at a state level, as well, also while in the midst of a general decrease in homelessness following the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report presented to U.S. Congress estimated that 13,375 Pennsylvania residents experienced homelessness that year. The report estimated that 8,585, or 64%, were individuals, and 4,790, or 36%, were members of a family unit with children.

The same report for 2021 estimated that 9,364 residents experienced homelessness last year. The report estimated 5,450, or 58%, were individuals, and 3,914, or 42%, were members of a family unit with children.

Commissioner Kevin Boozel said the problem is still a familiar one.

“This is not a new issue,” Boozel said. “Circumstances have changed.”

Commissioner Leslie Osche said that historically, the county has partnered with hotels and motels, especially regarding individuals. She said those partnerships have dwindled over the years and are near non-existent.

“There aren’t a lot of options,” she said.

Savochka said the hotels and motels wouldn’t help his department solve this dilemma, either, because they are not an adequate way to house an entire family.

“Our current solution we have for families has been deemed inappropriate,” Savochka said.

However, Savochka does see an avenue to a solution through Wednesday’s passed resolution, which is a one-time, emergency allocation of $50,000 toward securing an agreement with a temporary housing partner without the need to go through a bidding process.

“We’ve identified a couple options where we can do a few quick upgrades and have them ready,” Savochka said. “This gives us the ability that if we come to an agreement, we can act quickly.”

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