Bethlehem, PA – February 1, 2010 – (RealEstateRama) — Congressman Charlie Dent (PA-15) announced today that the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh (FHLBank) is making a $250,000 grant to a Bethlehem-based nonprofit so it can complete work on the renovation of a property in Downtown Allentown and expand its outreach to the chronically homeless. The grant is sponsored by KNBT, a division of National Penn Bank.
Grace Episcopal Church, the former owner of the property at North Fifth and Linden streets, has donated the three-story building at half its value to New Bethany Ministries, a 24-year-old nonprofit that meets a variety of needs faced by the homeless across the Lehigh Valley. New Bethany will convert it into a new center called Grace House to further accommodate the chronically homeless. Six single-room-occupancy units will be created within a group home setting on the lower two floors of the property, supplemented by a living room, kitchen and dining area, three bathrooms and a laundry facility. The top floor of the home will be used for meetings and conferences. Six parking spaces will serve the facility.
The Fifth Street facility will become part of the City of Allentown’s 10-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. On-site renovation work is expected to begin in February and project completion is scheduled for mid-summer.
“The Lehigh Valley is blessed with organizations and individuals who stand ready to help their neighbors in need,” said Congressman Dent. “In economic times like these, helping the disadvantaged of our community is especially imperative. This announcement reflects New Bethany’s dedication to their ongoing mission, to provide shelter in the present and hope for the future.”
Residents of the new rental facility will be chosen by members of the Lehigh County Conference of Churches (LCCC) as part of a U.S. Housing and Urban Development grant that helps fund the Conference’s chronic homelessness initiative. Rent subsidies and onsite social services will be provided by the coalition of more than 140 area churches, while other services such as free groceries and GED classes will be made available by Grace Episcopal Church, located next door to the planned facility. Grace Episcopal had used the property at 112 North Fifth for office space and social services until December 2007.
FHLBank, a congressionally chartered cooperative of local financial institutions, is awarding the $250,000 grant to New Bethany Ministries under its Affordable Housing Program, or AHP. KNBT, a division of National Penn Bank and a member of the FHLBank cooperative, is the sponsor of the grant, helped New Bethany prepare its grant application, and will deliver the grant money to the nonprofit.
“As an ongoing supporter of the communities we serve and live in, KNBT is proud to support this initiative. Supporting the chronically homeless is just another step in the right direction to helping those in our community,” said David B. Kennedy, National Penn Group Executive Vice President and President of KNBT, a division of National Penn Bank.
According to Jeffrey Miller, Interim Executive Director of New Bethany Ministries, whose organization will offer property management and frequent case management visits on-site, Grace House will be within easy walking distance of bus lines and Sacred Heart Hospital. In addition, the offices of the Lehigh County Conference of Churches are just a few blocks away. LCCC offers services such as subsidized meals, referrals for medical and mental health treatment, skills training for entrance into the job market and clothing services. LCCC also maintains a computer lab and helps participants access public entitlement benefits.
“The perception is that chronic homelessness is so vast, that there is very little that can be done to make a difference,” observed Miller. “While we aren’t going to end homelessness immediately, we can take small steps toward that end. And Grace House will effectively end homelessness for six people. For those six people, that’s all the difference in the world.”
New Bethany Ministries’ mission is to serve the needs of the homeless, the hungry, the mentally ill and the poor. It is a faith-based nonprofit that owns five buildings and employs 19 people. Approximately 600 volunteers regularly participate in its work. New Bethany Ministries is the only provider of transitional housing for families in the city of Bethlehem and also provides housing and support services to about ten percent of the homeless children of the Lehigh Valley region.
The Lehigh County Conference of Churches, founded in 1954, is comprised of more than 140 area churches and is supported by more than 800 volunteers. Among its numerous programs and activities, LCCC serves 50,000 meals to the needy, links 7,000 individuals in crisis to counseling resources, and provides services to more than 500 people struggling with mental health issues each year.
KNBT was formed in 2003 when Keystone Savings Bank merged with Nazareth Bank. In January 2008, KNBT merged with Boyertown, Pa.-based National Penn Bancshares, Inc. and is now the largest division of the organization with 56 offices throughout six counties. The most recent merger has brought many benefits to KNBT customers including a wider range of services and the ability to do banking at National Penn Bank and its HomeTowne Heritage Bank and Nittany Bank divisions.
FHLBank Pittsburgh, a private cooperative of local lenders chartered by Congress, provides a steady stream of low-cost liquidity to financial institutions across West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware. FHLBank uses no taxpayer dollars. At September 30, 2009, the Bank had 317 members in its cooperative and approximately $67 billion in assets.