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1999 Best Practices
Success Stories

Program Name: The Emma Lazarus Place
Program Focus: Homelessness
Geographic Area: Mid-Atlantic
State:     Pennsylvania  
City:     Berks County  

Executive Summary
The Emma Lazarus Place in Berks County, PA, is an innovative transitional housing program for homeless women and children who have left abusive relationships. The program, run by Berks Women in Crisis (BWIC), offers education and employment training to empower the women at Emma Lazarus and help them achieve self-sufficiency.

BWIC faced an important challenge in trying to design their residential program. Initial efforts to arrange a partnership with a housing developer were hampered by the fact that the developers were primarily interested in making a profit. BWIC, on the other hand, wanted to ensure that residents were provided all the important amenities that any family would need in a home. BWIC decided to take on the role of housing developer to ensure that the townhouses at Emma Lazarus were designed in a manner consistent with the organization’s philosophy. Mother and children each have separate rooms, and each unit has its own washer and dryer. The houses have kitchens in back so mothers can watch their children at play. BWIC also saved on the costs of construction, and was able to use the profit that would have gone to developers to underwrite long-term programs, housing rent, and activities for the children. Support from more than 100 volunteers, including electricians, plumbers, and architects, as well as a variety of local public and private agencies, enabled BWIC to further expand services without increasing operating costs. BWIC also received support through HUD HOME funds and supportive housing funds.

Providing safe, secure, and comfortable housing is only one part of the program at Emma Lazarus. It is one of the first domestic violence programs to offer long-term housing and personal development, as well as 24-hour day care. BWIC provides legal counseling for women who need to file for protection from abuse, as well as emotional counseling and support. The program also teaches residents the skills they need to achieve independence, including budget and housing counseling. While in the program residents participate in an educational or employment training program, based on a plan developed by the women with their case manager. All of the women receive some form of income, and are expected to pay a flat fee for rent. Fifty percent of the units are Section 8. The residents may stay at Emma Lazarus for up to two years, after which point they should be able to live on their own.

The program at Emma Lazarus was designed to encourage community and unity among the women. A community center anchors the homes and houses the child care and community supportive services, and also provides training to residents in early childhood education. The women are encouraged to join the local crime watch, which not only benefits the surrounding community, but also provides residents with an opportunity to become active participants in their neighborhood. Thanks to the work by BWIC, the women at Emma Lazarus not only have a safe and secure place to live, but an opportunity to stabilize their homes and their jobs while keeping their families intact.

Berks Women In Crisis

Financing: HUD HOME and Section 8 Funds

Point of Contact: Kenneth Pick, Phone: (610) 478-6325

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Content Archived: April 20, 2011

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