What We Do

At Friends Association, we believe in a holistic approach to supporting families facing homelessness. We address the challenges of housing equity while providing programs and services that support our neighbors on their journeys toward stable, permanent housing. We serve families throughout all of Chester County.

OUR APPROACH INCLUDES:

Housing First

Housing First is a research-based solution to ending homelessness that prioritizes providing housing to individuals experiencing homelessness as quickly as possible without preconditions.

2-Generation

Two-Generation approaches deliver services that intentionally strengthen the whole family so that all generations within the family can experience improved economic, housing, and educational outcomes. As a result, the whole family becomes more resilient to future disruptive events.

Trauma-informed

Trauma-informed care is a service approach that acknowledges the widespread, long-term impacts of trauma, understands signs and symptoms of trauma, and responds by integrating knowledge about trauma into all policies and practice.

Resiliency-Focused

A Resiliency-Focused Community
identifies programs and best practices proven to build resiliency at both individual and systemic levels  & improves the health of the entire system by promoting restoration, health, and growth in ongoing ways.

OUR PROGRAMS

PREVENTING HOMELESSNESS

PROVIDING EMERGENCY HOUSING

PARTNERING WITH FAMILIES FOR STABILITY

PROMOTING SYSTEMIC CHANGE

Eviction-Court

PREVENTING HOMELESSNESS

EVICTION PREVENTION COURT

The Eviction Prevention Court (EPC) program stabilizes vulnerable families and individuals who are facing eviction in participating courts by providing them with free legal and social services support on the day of their eviction hearing. The program provides financial assistance to prevent evictions, and connections to long-term financial services, housing subsidies, housing partnership programs, and social supports needed to prevent future housing instability.  EPC is the result of a cross-system partnership with the Chester County Court System, Chester County Department of Community Development, and the United Way of Chester County.

Eligibility:

  • Low Income (at or below 50% of the Area Median Income)
  • Scheduled to appear in Coatesville or Downingtown District Court
  • Not received financial assistance from the ECP program in the past 12 months
  • Eviction cannot be due to criminal activity
Homeless-Prevention

HOMELESSNESS PREVENTION

Our Homelessness Prevention program assists families facing a housing crisis. Short-term financial assistance is combined with landlord mediation, case management and education to keep families safely housed. To qualify households must have a lease in their name and the ability to pay rent moving forward. Services include gender-specific, trauma-informed care for women with mental health and/or substance use disorders. As one of the few resources available in Chester County for specialized case management, women receive the supportive care they need to break cycles of poverty and housing insecurity while simultaneously developing skill sets to address histories of trauma, support for behavioral health treatment and the resources for their unique, complex needs.

Eligibility:

  • Low Income (200% or below Federal Poverty Income Guidelines-FPIG)
  • Family/Caretaker with child/children under the age of 18 in their care
  • Lease signed by the head of household
  • At risk of losing housing
Eviction-Court

HOUSING NAVIGATION SERVICES

Our Housing Navigation services are focused, outcome-oriented, and time-limited services that help households obtain stable or stabilize current, long-term housing of their choice.  Navigation services include developing and implementing a housing action plan, including finding a home and coordinating a move, as well as creating a housing sustainability plan which includes referrals to supportive services, and assists with the transition to ongoing service providers.

Eligibility:

  • Low Income (at or below 200% of FPIG)
  • Households in need of assistance relocating and linkages to services
  • Referrals through EPC and ERAP prioritized

PROVIDING EMERGENCY HOUSING

FAMILY CENTER

Our Emergency Housing (Family Center) houses families experiencing homelessness referred through the County’s coordinated entry system, in one of six apartment units. Each family lives autonomously in an apartment for 90-120 days as they work with their case manager to secure permanent housing, create a housing stability case plan, increase income, and access mainstream benefits. Pregnant women and families with infants are immediately engaged with the Nurse Family Partnership to provide education, support, and resource connections. Taking a two-generation approach, we coordinate high quality early learning access (Head Start, Early Head Start) for all children under the age of 5. Friends’ Family Center is currently the only low-barrier emergency housing in the county that can house entire family units together through their time of crisis.

Eligibility:

  • Referrals are only accepted through Coordinated Entry System (211/Street Outreach)
  • Family/caretaker with child/children under the age of 18 in their care
  • Family is self-defined, including 20parent, single mom, single dad, grandparent, multigenerational, and LGBTQ*
Priorities-Emergency-Housing

NIA HOUSE

NIA House is a diversionary reentry home for women impacted by incarceration.  For returning citizens, having a safe and secure place to call home, can be the vital key to successful reentry.  This transitional housing program provides holistic reentry services for women returning to their community while giving them the space they need to re-establish critical bonds with their children, and secure long-term stable housing after a period of incarceration.

Eligibility:

  • Women currently incarcerated or directly released from prison or jail
  • Currently living in a halfway house, transitional house, or recovery house
  • Being directly discharged from inpatient treatment
  • At the risk of being unhoused
  • Trans women and LGBTQ Inclusive
  • Seeking to reunify with children/grandchildren
Nia-House

NIA BEYOND

NIA Beyond provides programming, case management, and peer support to justice-involved women (Trans women and LGTBQ inclusive) and their families who are residing in Friends Emergency Housing (Family Center), exiting partner shelters within Chester County, or facing housing instability in their own rental unit. Friends team works with each woman to stabilize housing through forensic case management and peer support. Women and their children participate in the NIA programming. Graduates from NIA Coatesville are also eligible for NIA Beyond upon obtaining long-term housing and it is our goal that graduates become trained as peers to support other women along their journey.

Eligibility:

  • Women with justice involvement or formerly incarcerated and their children
  • At risk of or experiencing homelessness
  • Low-income (at or below 200% FPIG)

Referrals are accepted from partner agencies, 2-1-1, and self-referral.

Nia-House
Housing-Stability

PARTNERING WITH FAMILIES FOR STABILITY

HOME 2 STAY

Through our Home 2 Stay Program, long-term case management is available for families recently moved to permanent housing from any emergency housing in the county or directly from the experience of homelessness. This graduate program provides continued case management support, comprehensive guidance, and resources to empower families and reduce the risk of a family’s return to homelessness.  Our goal is to help families not only obtain housing but to keep it.

Eligibility:

  • Low Income (at or below 200% of FPIG)
  • Family/Caretaker with child/children under the age of 18 in their care

  • Lease in name of the head of household

  • Recently moved from emergency shelter, or self-resolved homelessness within the last year

Skill-Development

PEER SUPPORT

Our Peer Support Program is a mutually supportive service for our neighbors that conveys hope, identifies strengths, and facilitates access to appropriate resources as needed. Peers are people who have lived experience of mental health and/or substance use, embody a life of recovery and have undergone extensive training, who help others experiencing similar situations.  Our Peer Support Program aids our neighbors in laying the foundation for the four dimensions of recovery:  Health, Home, Community, and Purpose.

Eligibility:

  • Current participant of one of Friends Association’s Programs

  • Family/Caretaker with child/children under the age of 18 in their care

  • Adult with current or history of mental health and/or substance use disorder

PROMOTING SYSTEMIC CHANGE

We believe in the power of change on levels big and small, both within ourselves and in our larger systems.  We are committed to ending homelessness for our neighbors by raising awareness of the issue and mobilizing our community to address the root causes of family homelessness. We are invested in our role as community leaders in advocacy and collective action because until we get at the root causes of homelessness, including but not limited to poverty, systemic inequities, the affordable housing crisis, and shortfalls in our social service systems, our vision will be unattainable.

Healing-Resilience

ALL OF OUR PROGRAMS INCLUDE:

In order to enable families to maintain stable housing, they identify any barriers they may have to long-term self-sufficiency and create plans and goals to address these barriers. This can include everything from financial literacy to training for (and obtaining) better-paying jobs.

To empower families to succeed, Friends offers workshops and one-on-one sessions in parenting skills, financial literacy ( such as managing a budget and paying bills on time), the Prepared Renter’s Program, and organizational skills like managing a calendar.  We work with families as they settle into scheduling their children’s events- school, after-school, medical appointments, etc.- as well as their own appointments for services, potential employers, and more.

Facts:

  • The Prepared Renters Program (PREP) offers comprehensive education on assessing housing needs and locating housing, budgeting, understanding a lease, communicating with landlords, and understanding the eviction process.
  • Generally, only 5% of families in our prevention programs require rental assistance at any given time due to effective skills development.
  • 94% of families are able to sustain their basic needs.

Adults and their children who have experienced homelessness are more likely to be in poor health due to the lack of access to primary care. Friends’ professionals guide families on identifying their family’s medical needs, including ensuring that they have access to medical/dental insurance or, if not, that they are still able to access care.

Families focus on the importance of mental and physical wellness, including annual doctor and dental exams; hygiene; exercise and nutrition, and having a healthy self-image. Issues such as behavioral health, domestic violence, and substance use are tackled through outside referrals and on-site workshops.

Facts:

  • Almost half of the families in our programs enter with a diagnosed medical or behavioral health condition. 
  • Through referrals to community providers, Friends connects parents, caregivers, and their children to physical and behavioral health services each year.

Intake screening reveals that the majority of adults entering our emergency shelter have long histories of traumatic stress, including Adverse Childhood Experiences. In addition to challenging behavioral responses stemming from trauma, people experiencing homelessness also suffer from depression, substance use disorder, and severe behavioral health conditions and we see this in the families we serve.

This combination of issues leaves families even more vulnerable, interferes with their ability to work, impairs their social networks, and further complicates their service needs. We will be unable to solve the issues of homelessness without addressing the underlying trauma that is so intricately linked to housing instability.

Many of the children in our programs have also experienced trauma prior to becoming homeless, and homelessness can exacerbate the consequences of trauma or re-traumatize a child, resulting in a cycle that is tragically damaging and
costly to both individuals and communities.

Friends staff work diligently to create an environment of safety, trust, respect, and choice while promoting self-advocacy.  Caseworkers work one-on-one with our families to help them set their own goals and empower them by building family resilience.

Facts:

Following the SAMSHA model, there are Six Guiding Principles of Trauma-Informed Care:

  • Safety
  • Trustworthiness and Transparency
  • Peer Support and Mutual Self Help
  • Collaboration and Mutuality
  • Empowerment, Voice, and Choice
  • Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues

Research has consistently shown that when the right supports are in place, the majority of young people who grow up amidst extremely challenging circumstances not only survive but end up as thriving adults.

Children in Friends Programs are assessed by trained professionals through our partnerships with the Chester County Health Department’s Home Visiting Nurse Program, the Chester County Intermediate Unit Head Start and Early Head Start Programs, and a Child’s Light Trauma Counseling Program.  Referrals are coordinated with community agencies based on individual needs.  Additionally, our programming during summer breaks prevents learning loss, which often occurs over the summer.

Facts:

  • Homelessness is traumatic for children because they often experience frequent moves, family split-ups, and living in crowded places before using homeless shelters. (National Center on Family Homelessness)
  • Ten percent to 26% of homeless preschoolers have mental health problems requiring clinical evaluation. This increases to 24% to 40% among homeless school-age children—two to four times higher than low-income children aged 6 to 11 years. (The Bassuk Center on Homeless and Vulnerable Children & Youth)

Stories Of Home

Jeffery G & Son in front of Friends Shelter
Jeffery G and his family

As a child, Jeffrey G. stayed with us when his family was in crisis. His time as a resident at Friends Family Center left a deep impact on him and his future.

He has ended the cycle of homelessness for his family, continues to give back to Friends, and lives empowered by his past.

He shared this video with us.

I don’t think you guys will ever know how much you helped me, my mother and two sisters with giving us a safe place to stay!

Jeffery G.

Our Partners

Open Hearth
Chester County Opportunities Industrialization Center
A Child's Light Logo
Community Warehouse Project