Judy Jeffords-Homitz, CEO, Safe Harbor of Chester County, Issues Reminder: Homelessness Is a Pandemic, Too

woman with hand up behind a rainy piece of glass
Image via Milada Vigerova at Unsplash.
Judy Jeffords-Homitz believes the health and wellness threats of homelessness also constitutes a pandemic.

For Judy Jeffords-Homitz, CEO of Safe Harbor of Chester County, the word ‘pandemic’ could use a reset.

The origins of the word are from the Greek, pan, meaning all and demos as in local people, the crowd.

Over the past 18 months, usage has centered understandably on the COVID-19 outbreak.

But Jeffords-Homitz points out that the usurpation of pandemic to mean only issues related to coronavirus infections eclipses other applicable uses of the word.

In her estimation, it is becoming a label the public is tiring of.

“It is one of the first words you hear when you wake up and is one of the last words you hear before going to bed at night,” she wrote in a community email.

Jeffords-Homitz further asserts that pandemic applies to global issues like homelessness.

She explained, citing data from Stanford University: “In 1992 it was reported that there were 100 million homeless. Fast forward to today, there are now 150 million homeless people, and this number is increasing.” 

Current Status of Chester County

Just like the pandemic, homelessness strikes haphazardly. In seemingly a matter of days, stable families can lose their financial equilibrium, spiral out of control, and be forced to leave their homes.

Identifying the roots of such an indiscriminate occurrence is something beyond Safe Harbor’s abilities.

Rather than curse its causes, however, the organization seeks to help.

“We focus on taking care of our Chester County neighbors,” Jeffords-Homitz wrote. “And we are seeing a dramatic increase in homelessness in our area.

“Chester County is the wealthiest County in the entire state,” she said, quoting online data. “And the housing market is booming. Currently, mortgage rates are at an all-time low, and houses are selling for 40 percent above the asking prices.

“This phenomenon raises the value of neighbors’ homes, which then affects the rent on leased properties.

“Add this to the mix of luxurious townhomes and condominiums being built all over the county to satisfy the fleeing urban dwellers, and we create a lack of affordable housing.

“New houses cannot be built because of a lack of labor and expensive material costs due to supply shortages.

“So many people who are out of work, barely making rent, or unable to pay it at all, are facing eviction. Too many people are facing homelessness in Chester County.”

Responding to the Situation 

How to address this dire reality?

Jeffords-Homitz’ recommendation is to “support the mission of Safe Harbor of Chester County.

“It is more crucial than ever before that we have your help to be able to continue our mission of providing food, clothing, support services, showers, laundry, and shelter for every homeless person reaching out to us.

“The men and women who walk through our doors are being given a second chance at starting over. They are referred to the services they need to become mentally and physically healthy, work on securing employment, and aided in their progression to the next step in their lives.

“Our continued success depends on the generous support from our family of volunteers, donors, and friends.

“We receive only 12 percent of our annual operating budget from government agencies.

“The rest comes from someone like you who cares about those less fortunate living in our community.

“We need your help. Please donate today,” she concluded.

Information on supporting Safe Harbor of Chester County is available online.

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