A nightmare on our doorstep: Deep cuts, painful impact
The following guest opinion written by State Representative Tina Davis (D-141) appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times on April 21, 2017.
I have been deeply troubled by the first budget presented by President Trump, which puts the Community Development Block Grant and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Community Services Block Grant programs on the chopping block. The Courier Times article from March 21st detailed just how devastating these cuts would be for our community.
The losses to our region — $1.7 million to Bucks County, a half a million to Bristol Township from the Community Development Grant, another $700,000 in HOME Investment Partnership program and $727,000 from Health and Human Services block grant — are staggering on the surface, but numbers do not even begin to tell the story.
Before being elected to the state House in 2010 I served as a member of the Bristol Township Council. I witnessed firsthand the difference that these programs made in the lives of many of our residents. Senior citizens, who had worked all of their lives and never asked for a thing in return, trying to make ends meet on a fixed income were able to get help replacing old heaters, or a leaky roof. It allowed them to make repairs that they couldn’t otherwise afford so that they could stay in their homes. Young families, just starting their lives together but might not have had a great credit history yet, were able to purchase starter homes or use money from the program to fix up an existing home that they had only been able to afford because it needed repairs.
These programs not only help the families directly involved but our community at large. They keep people in their homes and the value of the neighborhoods intact. Without this program, many seniors could be forced to sell their home for a depressed value, or that young family just starting out may not have the down payment to purchase that foreclosure or fixer-upper on your street. In both cases the properties could fall prey to a fly-by-night boarding house owner who wants to pack it with weekly renters.
As a state representative, I know the value that the Bucks County Opportunity Council and Family Services Association hold to our community. My staff and I work with those two organizations on an almost daily basis. We have single parent households, working full time but struggling to make ends, threatened with losing their electric or heat, or maybe fell behind on their rent and just need help getting caught up to get their feet back under them. The Opportunity Council helps these families to keep the lights on, the children warm and most importantly, off the street.
Family Services provides a multitude of services to all age groups. They are a major part of the Housing Continuum of Care along with the Opportunity Council and they operate the Lower Bucks Homeless Shelter. Many people do not understand that most of the shelter houses children and their mothers for the most part. They not only house them but have professionals who work with them to help them access services, get to school, and help with finding employment. The goal is to get these families back on their feet and into a stable environment. There is currently a six- to eight-week waiting list to get into the shelter. What will happen to all of these children if these budget cuts come to fruition?
These two organizations, among others, work miracles on a daily basis with very limited funding. I wake up in a cold sweat when the nightmare comes to me of looking a young, struggling mother and her two little children, who had come to me for help because they are living in their car, in the eye and tell them there is nothing that I can do. There is nowhere I can call because these organizations had to close their doors. I’m sorry that your kids will sleep in the car again tonight, or without heat because you ran out of money for oil.
This is a scenario that should keep us all awake at night and unfortunately it is the scenario that is now at our front doorstep.
Tina M. Davis, Bristol Township, is state representative for the 141st Legislative District.