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Pa. homeless shelter, food pantry closing

August 10, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- South Central Community Action Programs (SCCAP) will close its Franklin County, Pa., homeless shelter and food pantry later this month due to a state budget impasse.

SCCAP, which provides human services for low-income residents of Franklin and Adams counties, needs a minimum $400,000 a month to operate, Executive Director Megan Shreve said. The nonprofit corporation has been operating on a line of credit since the Pennsylvania Legislature missed a June 30 budget deadline, suspending aid checks, she said.

If nothing changes, only $5,000 will be left in the savings account on Aug. 22.

"Right now, the state of Pennsylvania owes us about $1.2 million," Shreve said.

A letter distributed Monday alerted SCCAP's 108 employees that the doors will be closed Aug. 21 until funding is restored. SCCAP serves 23,000 clients a year in its various programs.

"Staff are worried about our clients," Shreve said.

Among concerned staffers is Trudy Wesley, who oversees the Franklin County Shelter for the Homeless on South Main Street in Chambersburg.

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State leaders "have no idea what they're doing as far as affecting the people who need help the most," Wesley said.

She said 50 people, including several children, could be sent onto the streets in Franklin and Adams counties.

Also affected are WIC, which provides screenings and nutritional help for women and small children, as well as the emergency assistance program's payments for medical, shelter, utility and rent payments. The Franklin County shelter already suspended its life-skills training.

SCCAP helps Franklin County homeowners make repairs to bring their properties up to code.

"It's sad, it's unfortunate and it's unnecessary," said state Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland.

He said the governor line-item vetoed $25 million for homeless assistance after the legislature passed a stopgap budget measure.

Kauffman, Shreve and Wesley all said the suspension of SCCAP services comes at a bad time, when residents affected by the slumping economy are looking for help.

SCCAP, which has been in operation since 1965, experienced a 20 percent increase in demand for services in the past 18 months, Shreve said.

"Any competent individual would say this is a horrible time. We can't put these folks in jeopardy," Kauffman said, calling Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell's line-item veto "probably the most heartless action he's taken to affect the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians."

Wesley said one of her five colleagues is facing homelessness because of not receiving paychecks. Also, she worries that parents who use SCCAP's subsidies for child day-care services might need to leave their jobs to take over caretaking responsibilities.

"The ramifications of this are astronomical," she said.

Shreve said she's heard that aid checks could take four weeks to arrive after a budget agreement is reached.

SCCAP's annual operating budget is $11 million.

SCCAP officials are trying to determine whether fundraisers can extend services until state funding resumes. Kauffman said there are no good estimates as to when a full budget will be in place.

"We're still looking for a miracle to happen," Shreve said.

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