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Article from Bucks County Courier Times:

Gianficaro: Bus purchased for homeless – Bucks County Courier Times: Buck Up Bucks:

The generosity of Bucks County residents and businesses to the Buck Up Bucks County campaign has helped Advocates for Homeless & Those in Need purchase a new 14-seat, wheelchair-accessible bus to transport needy folks to and from community meals at area houses of worship, and to Code Blue shelters during the bitterest days of winter.

http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/tabs/buckupbucks/gianficaro-bus-purchased-for-homeless/article_1a260506-dcd2-56e6-890b-35f9ad3408e2.html

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Letter from Sandy Mullican, AHTN Executive Director 4/3/15:

Hello Volunteers!

AHTN has sure grown since its inception in 2009! What started out as a vision to provide a dinner and a warm cot in the winter months of 2009/2010 has turned into 4 very busy missions. Just looking at the Wheels to Meals calendar and equating that to two volunteers each meal (and now sometimes 4 as we utilize two buses for far-reaching meals) is a testimony to the opportunities we are fortunate to fill.

The Board of Directors continues to work very hard to make sure our current missions are running smoothly and serving those we are trying to reach, while planning strategically for the future. If these last 6 Code Blue seasons have proven anything – it would be that AHTN’s services are desperately needed, and homelessness is not going away.

In Spring of 2013 it was decided that a Board/Staff structure that included an Executive Director would help stabilize AHTN’s missions and provide the opportunity to grow our funding base – particularly grants. I am delighted that I have filled that position as a volunteer since July 1, 2013. Like so many of us, this is my hometown, my parents live here and we raised our family here. It means a lot to me personally to be able to volunteer to help the homeless and in need in this area.

In a very short time, we established working relationships with St. Mary’s, The Patricia Kind Foundation, Church & Dwight, IBM, and William Penn Bank. Our community efforts have led to donations from many groups including the Bensalem Lions and the Makefield Women’s Association. Many others, including churches and other faith-based groups, individuals and businesses contribute their financial support as well. And we can’t forget the Buck Up Bucks campaign through the Bucks County Courier Times that allowed us to purchase a handicapped-accessible bus, as well as Bristol Township School District transportation and their contact with STA, who gifted us a bus when we needed it most. AHTN is truly blessed.

It’s time to grow again – so we can meet our mission objectives and build our strategic plan. The Board of Directors has approved and is excited to announce that thanks to a generous grant through St. Mary’s we have two new people to welcome to the AHTN team! Karen Mineo and Elizabeth Sullivan will join forces with Amy McKeon. Karen, Elizabeth and Amy will handle various tasks including administrative, fundraising, social media, grant writing, volunteer coordinator support, recruitment, training, strategic planning, etc. Areas of responsibility will be announced as Karen and Elizabeth become comfortable with AHTN and its missions.

These positions will provide the attention to our overall missions and our growth that we simply cannot provide as volunteers running all the missions on our own while trying to grow. We are very excited to welcome Karen and Elizabeth, and are confident that they and Amy will continue to keep AHTN running smoothly, provide much needed support, and help to strategically plan AHTN’s future. This gives us volunteer coordinators the chance to devote our volunteer time specifically to our missions, and not have to squeeze in all the multi-tasking that goes with doing all the work ourselves. And of course, all our missions remain volunteer based – so don’t think any volunteer is being replaced – we need ALL of our volunteers! Exciting times!

All of us who coordinate areas will of course be working closely with Karen and Elizabeth as they learn our missions. Elizabeth was able to shadow at a Code Blue near the end of the season, and was amazed at how organized the process is. Amy entered all the Code Blue intake forms into the HMIS system, and was also present at several Code Blue nights. So while you may see less of some of us (specifically me), please know that we are all still here, continuing our volunteer roles and offering support to Karen, Elizabeth, and Amy.

I absolutely love every minute I spend with AHTN. I particularly love working on Transportation with Co-Coordinator David Suessenguth, and Code Blue with Co-Director Doug Moyer. But, life throws us twists and turns we didn’t necessarily envision. My husband has accepted a new employment opportunity, and we will be transitioning to Delaware County in the very near future. I will be remaining as Co-Transportation Coordinator through at least the next few months, and will continue to be a volunteer driver. We will be working on filling gaps that will need to be covered as I will be an hour away. I’ll also continue on as Executive Director for the next few months as Karen, Elizabeth and Amy settle in.

Change for AHTN is a very positive thing – we are growing our missions, growing our volunteer opportunities, and growing positions that will keep us making a positive difference right here in Lower Bucks County. I’m very excited about the future of AHTN! Please know that you can always contact Penny Martin (pfmartin@ahtn.org) or myself with any questions and concerns. And please keep checking our website for the latest news and updates.

Sincerely,

Sandy Mullican
Executive Director
Advocates for Homeless & Those in Need
www.ahtn.org

Article from Levittown Now, 1/22/15

The Bucks County Commissioners voted on Wednesday to provide a financial boost to two Bucks County organizations that aid the homeless.

The three commissioners approved $1,000 donations to Levittown-based Advocates for Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN) and the Ottsville-based Coalition to Support and Shelter Homeless. The two groups run the “Code Blue” emergency shelters within the county.

Advocates for Homeless and Those in Need Executive Director Sandy Mullican said the following after hearing of the motion by the commissioners:

“Advocates for Homeless and Those in Need extends thanks to the Commissioners of Bucks County. The Bucks County Code Blue overnight shelter programs are not County agencies – all are volunteer-driven missions which count on financial support from individuals, houses of worship, and businesses. The Commissioners offer their strong support to these programs, and we are grateful for their contribution as we continue on our mission to provide emergency overnight shelter to the homeless on extremely cold winter nights. It is our privilege to serve in this important mission, and we thank the Commissioners for all their support.”

The money given to the groups comes from a $200,000 “other civics” pot that is distributed annually to non-profits on a case by case basis, county spokesman Chris Edwards said.

 

From LevittownNow, January 19, 2015, Amanda Kuehlne – Author

On bitter winter nights when the wind-chill sets the temperature below 26 degrees, you’ll find a bustling, underground network of volunteers appearing from across Bucks County.

Credit: Amanda Kuehnle/LevittownNow.com

They ditch the comforts of their warm homes to brace the freezing cold, where they’ll spend their nights bringing those inside not as lucky as them.

They arrive each chilly night in the hollows of a church sanctuary, where they flick on the lights ready to provide safe and warm shelter for those left freezing outside. They set up dozens of cots, laying a pre-packaged blanket and pillow across each one. They’ll spend the next hour or so preparing hot meals and setting up resource materials – making it easily accessible for the area’s homeless that visits them to get government help and assistance. Some take the handouts, some don’t, but they remain on a humble white folding table by the church’s entrance each night the organization names a ‘Code Blue’.

An informal passing of news exists in the homeless community. According to experts on the issue, it’s within days of becoming homeless that an individual can become knowledgeable of all the help and resources available to them. While the cold makes it harder for those without a home to survive, those that need a warm place to stay, know where they can go. Many in the lower end of Bucks County, flock to the Levittown Library on 7301 New Falls Road, which according to Advocates for Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN) Organizer Doug Moyer, has been extremely understanding of the nearby homeless population.

The outside of a Code Blue shelter. Credit: Amanda Kuehnle/LevittownNow.com

While some walk to the library from the nearby shelter as a means of activity, others use it as a place to keep warm or keep in contact with county employees, who often email the homeless seeking assistance as a means of reliable communication.

The shelter helps serve as an emergency shelter for families and individuals – providing food, clothing, general information and case managers to help those in need. The shelter, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, can house up to 85 men, women and children.

“Not many will avail themselves to the shelter, sometimes the minimal demands of a shelter may be daunting like a curfew or not drinking, it’s taken away a severe sense of independence,” said Steve Brubaker, Director of Programs for the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission. “It’s hard to believe we do have people trying to make it outside, especially in this weather. Getting people out of the streets when it’s a Code Blue, its really critical.”

According to AHTN Executive Director Sandy Mullican and nightly volunteer at the Code Blue shelter, the county system has really transformed the homeless ‘procedure’. Rather than numerous organizations assisting the homeless, those in need of help can call one county number, which connects them with everything they need, making it less time consuming and more likely that those ashamed of their situation, will reach out to change it.

“There’s really been a huge change in how the county handles the homeless- now there’s one central intake system, those that need help can call one number for quick assistance,” Mullican said. “It’s resulting in shorter stay times at the shelter.”

Shorter stay times at the shelter, means less women (who have first priority when accompanied with their children) are meeting Mullican at chilly, Code Blue nights. According to Moyer, about 140 unique individuals spent at least one night at one of their Code Blue shelters last winter, majority of those were males.

Credit: Amanda Kuehnle/LevittownNow.com

“[The central intake system] is working for a lot of people,” Mullican said. “That means that a lot of the times, whatever issue someone has, is being taken care of before they become homeless.”

Brubaker, said their organization is a part of that fight. “The economy has had a real downturn in this area, [Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission] is trying to get people from this end, the ones that are falling through the cracks,” he said. “We want to get to people before they are pushed out of their homes. $7.35 as minimum wage, it’s hard to make it on that”

Moyer told LevittownNow.com there was a significant difference between those who had worn out their welcome somewhere and needed a night to crash, and those who had burnt bridges and destroyed relationships to the point they had nowhere else to go – the permanently and chronically homeless.

“Last year was the first time so many young people and so many older people came into the shelter,” said Mullican. While past years at Code Blue seemed reserved for middle aged men, last year saw young people in their twenties visiting the shelter, often griped with serious drug issues, Mullican said.

Mullican said she’s understanding of the fact that many who visit the shelter are often crippled with what is sometimes a decades old drug or alcohol problem. “We’re just here to provide an alternative to freezing,” she said. “Those with an issue are great at hiding it for the few hours their here, they’re appreciative of what we’re giving them and they aren’t trying to mess that up or get kicked out.”

Brubaker said the issue with the chronically homeless isn’t always drugs. Oftentimes, a  lack of affordable housing or the inability to make a livable wage can affect a lot of those on the brink of homelessness – a drug or alcohol problem or even a mental illness can be what keeps them there.

Volunteers prepare a hot meal for the impending homeless. Credit: Amanda Kuehnle/LevittownNow.com

AHTN’s volunteers each have their own jobs to fill, and despite it being an organization that operates solely in bitter conditions, Mullican said she hasn’t experienced what it’s like to have a lack of volunteers. In fact just last week, Mullican received dozens of homemade casseroles from the local community after she posted about being shorthanded food for the Code Blue shelter. Within hours of posting her need on a local community Facebook page, Mullican was filling up her car and arranging pick ups to take them all.

Within the organization, others find their place. From providing listening ears to preparing hot, delicious meals in the kitchen. Locals interested in giving back have found their calling.

Some choose to remain out in the cold, driving or assisting a bus driver who makes their routes throughout the Levittown and Bristol area picking up the area’s homeless at nearby, designated pickup locations. Some, even with a fulltime job, choose to work the night shift, staying up to observe everything is ok.

Mullican said the Code Blue shelter usually doesn’t have an issue. “It takes an incredible amount of energy and calories to stay warm,” she said. “Oftentimes those that come in want to eat and go right to sleep, some opt for their cots once they get here.”

AHTN feels comfortable knowing they are able to bring a significant portion of those who would normally be left outside, in to safer environments. There is still, a significant portion of those who remain out in the cold, fending for themselves.

Each year the county conducts a Point-in-Time Count to determine exactly how big of an issue homelessness is, and where that problem lies. When the study was conducted on January 29 last year, it found that 428 people were sleeping in shelters, 524 people were homeless in Bucks, and out of every five people- two were children. According to the county, the number of people who lack regular, overnight sleeping arrangements has steadily increased over the last three years.

“In Bucks, there’s a lack of middle class jobs where a guy without a college degree can make a livable wage, there’s also a lack in affordable dwelling places,” Brubaker said. “It’s obvious in Philly- you see rows of homes where the roofs are caved in, with the loss of the tax base, the middle class jobs have evaporated, Bucks is not Philadelphia but it’s a mini picture of that.”

For Brubaker, the answer to homelessness is keeping the problem and those it affects in the lime light. “The homeless need to become part of the community again,” he said. “You can’t do addiction or homelessness well unless you cut off your support system. We need to find out what the issue is and advocate for them on a personal issue.”

If you are homeless or experiencing a housing crisis, call the Bucks County Housing Link at 800-810-4434.