This summer, I had the opportunity to work as a Housing Intern for United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania, within their Community Services department. As an intern for the Housing Counseling team, I had two roles: Walk-in clinic assistance, and policy and procedures analysis. During Walk-ins, I would complete centralized intakes with our clients, collecting important demographic information and explaining required paperwork. I was able to see firsthand the consequences of housing instability on individuals and families, and how local, state, and federal programs seek to address these consequences. The results of my policy and procedures analysis of how well we were meeting the needs of our clients was presented by my supervisors to the President of United Neighborhood Centers, Lisa Durkin, in an effort to show that the policies and procedures of the Housing Counseling team needed to be changed to better meet our clients’ needs.
I was not expecting to witness how the labor shortage impacted nonprofits like United Neighborhood Centers (UNC). During my time there, I saw multiple staff members leave the organization for other positions. I’ve worked at another nonprofit organization in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and they didn’t seem to be nearly as understaffed. The workload at UNC is similar to social workers – the need is high, and the staffing is low.
During my experience, I was able to see how local, state, and federal laws impact the housing crisis in Northeastern Pennsylvania. There are other cities where the cost of living is sky high and rent is soaring, but in Northeastern Pennsylvania it feels like I’m seeing the writing on the walls. Pennsylvania, especially Northeastern Pennsylvania, is known for having a low cost of living. However, my area is not equipped to handle the influx of workers fleeing high costs of living in New York City and Philadelphia. This has led to soaring rents, and with the labor shortage, supply chain issues, and lack of affordable housing, I am concerned that my area needs to do something now in order to mitigate the impending harm to already disadvantaged communities. For now, I intend to focus my thesis on the affordable housing crisis in Northeastern Pennsylvania due to this experience.