Bucks County Courier Times Article Dec. 2017

Click this link for Courier Times article & video: http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/news/20171204/homeless-advocates-prep-for-winter-cold-search-for-more-funding

Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need might need to make some cuts to the non-profit organization’s operation come March if they can’t secure enough funding for their services.

Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need is working double time as the year comes to an end — to not only help the less fortunate, but also make sure the group has enough funding to continue its initiatives into 2018 and beyond.

AHTN volunteers and representatives spent much of one morning last week preparing a handful of rooms in the basement of Emmaus Road Lutheran Church in Middletown for the first month of the Code Blue initiative in Lower Bucks County. This is the ninth year the interfaith non-profit will stage the effort to bring homeless adults in out of the cold when wind chill-aided temperatures drop to 26 degrees or lower.

The set-up crew included a handful of those struggling with homelessness who have been served by the Code Blue initiative. “I am giving back because they have helped me,” Edward White said.

The organization formed in 2009. However, this year there is an air of uncertainty hanging over its efforts, because AHTN representatives don’t know if they will be able to continue Code Blue or the other programs they offer beyond this winter. They are trying to make up a $100,000 loss in funding after St. Mary Medical Center pulled its annual contribution earlier this year; the funds accounted for almost half of the organization’s $225,000 operating budget, said Karen Mineo, the AHTN managing consultant.

The medical facility in Middletown informed AHTN in the summer that it was shifting its funding focus to in-house services. Since then, AHTN has been trying to secure grants. It sent 800 fundraising letters to houses of worship, banks, real estate agencies, volunteers and donors in a direct mail campaign, Mineo said. The group also has staged a number of fundraisers and is planning more, including a Christian concert and dessert event from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Dec 15 at Grace Point Church in Lower Makefield.

As of late November, AHTN had secured about half of the funding needed for its operations in 2018, Mineo said. Roughly 100 companies, corporations, family foundations and trusts, bank foundations, houses of worship, community organizations, volunteers and donors typically provide financial support for the organization’s efforts.

AHTN representatives hope the group’s year-end fundraising campaign will help make up for some of the loss, too. But nothing is guaranteed. 

“If we can’t find funding, something will have to give,” Mineo said. “We will make a decision in March.”

Most of the organization’s funding is dedicated to the programs created and run by AHTN representatives and the group’s 325 volunteers, she said.

It takes 18 volunteers to run a Code Blue operation each night. The initiative had more than 1,500 check-ins during the 50 nights the program was in operation during winter 2016-17, Mineo said. About 80 percent of the guests are men and 20 percent are women.

On a Code Blue night, volunteers provide their guests with a cot, sleeping bag, blanket, pillow, sheet, socks, gloves, thermals, a hot meal and warm place to sleep when the temperature drops to dangerously low levels.

Volunteers also run the overnight shelter on Christmas Eve night regardless of how cold it is outside to give area homeless a place to celebrate the holiday, Mineo said.

The Code Blue initiative rotates between four churches each year: Emmaus houses the program in December, Woodside Presbyterian Church in Lower Makefield provides the overnight shelter in January, Calvary Baptist Church in Bristol Borough hosts in February and the program operates in March out of Emilie United Methodist Church in Bristol Township.

“We are here to help,” volunteer Bob Gilmer, of Bensalem, said Friday. “We are out there helping the homeless in Lower Bucks. They are a part of our community.”

In addition to the cold weather initiative, AHTN also:

  • provides area homeless and those in need with transportation to meals provided by more than 30 houses of worship in Lower Bucks County.
  • invites area homeless to go to a “Rejuvenation Station” on the second Wednesday of each month to take a shower, get a haircut, receive a hot meal and enjoy some fellowship with others.
  • assists “Those in Need” program by providing them with clothing, food, diapers and formula, rent and utility payment assistance and other services to help them get back on their feet.

Over the past year, AHTN volunteers transported 5,248 guests to the free shared meals, Mineo said. The organization also served 2,171 Those in Need clients and 95 guests who visited a “Rejuvenation Station.”

AHTN representatives recently have cut back on monthly budgets for some of the missions in an attempt to cut costs, Mineo said. But that reduces the organization’s ability to be able to respond to emergency calls for assistance for an entire month.

For instance, the Those in Need program’s budget had been $3,000 per month. It recently was reduced to $2,000 and the program usually runs out of funding by mid-month, Mineo said.

Longtime volunteers like Barbara Merritt are hoping AHTN will be able to secure enough funding to keep its operation going.

“It will be heartbreaking for anything to go, because everything is needed,” the Bristol Township resident said Friday after helping to set up the Code Blue initiative. “We fill so many needs that people don’t even realize. If any of that goes away, who will pick it up? I don’t know.”

To help AHTN #SaveOurMissions Click here: Donate to AHTN

Code Blue shelters in Bucks County

Non-profit organizations run the Code Blue shelters throughout Bucks County and provide transportation to and from the sites whenever the program is activated in the event of extreme cold or other situation creating a public health risk.

LOWER BUCKS COUNTY

Advocates for Homeless and Those in Need will operate the following Code Blue shelters over the next four months:

December: Emmaus Road Lutheran Church, 2185 Bristol Oxford Valley Road, Middletown

January: Woodside Presbyterian Church, 1667 Edgewood Road, Lower Makefield

February: Calvary Baptist Church, 250 Green Lane, Bristol Borough

March: Emilie United Methodist Church, 7300 New Falls Road, Bristol Township

Doors open at 9 p.m. each night of a Code Blue activation.