The rural Pocono Mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania host some of the best outdoor recreation in the region, but when COVID hit last year, resorts shut their doors. Empty parklands were a sad site to most, but for Enid Logan, executive director of Family Promise of Monroe County in Stroudsburg, PA, the area’s abandoned campgrounds were a source of inspiration.
Last spring, the only other shelter in the community closed temporarily, sending an unprecedented number of families to Family Promise. The Affiliate was working with local hotels but needed more shelter options, so Logan approached one of the campgrounds, Streamside Camp & Conference Center. Its heated cabins and spacious common areas were ideal for families.
Streamside Operations Director Matt Brown says it has been a unique time, and campground staff have tried to bring a sense of normalcy to the families living there.
“We’ve had campfires, hot dog roasts, hayrides, movie nights,” he says. “It’s been more than just physical needs. We’ve gotten to interact with the families a lot.”
That aligns perfectly with Family Promise’s philosophy that shelter alone isn’t the solution to homelessness. Case management and a range of supports, skills building, and access to resources are putting these families on the path to lasting independence.
Logan says that families in this rural community have faced unique challenges since COVID hit. Family Promise is currently working with a family who lost their home in a fire, as well as several families from a pocket of the community where lead levels in the drinking water displaced residents, among many others. They’re also supporting families in nearby counties because of the lack of service providers in the area. A father who couldn’t find a shelter that accepted single dads came to Family Promise, as have families just across the state line in New York where programs only cater to single adults. In addition, Family Promise is working with families impacted by a parent’s incarceration in the correctional facility in the next county.
Over the past year, Logan notes, the circumstances that have led many families to homelessness are often beyond their control.
“Some [parents] lost work or lost hours, for some, unemployment just doesn’t pay the bills,” she explains. “There are even houses that were foreclosed on because the landlords weren’t paying their mortgages – it had nothing to do with the families at all.”
Since the health pandemic began, Family Promise of Monroe County has helped nearly 150 families find shelter or remain in their homes as they work to regain stability, and all of the families who have moved into housing remain housed.