Our Approach

There is no one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter solution to family homelessness.  At Friends, we take a holistic, family-centered approach to providing services  that transform lives.

 

Real solutions are as complex as the families who experience homelessness.  But if we truly want to end family homelessness in our communities, we must learn from and value the families themselves-the power and agency lie within the families themselves-and we must take the time to create real solutions for real families.

Friends Association’s Housing First model of service delivery recognizes that people experiencing homelessness-like all people- need the safety and stability of a home in order to best address challenges and pursue opportunities.

Homes are the anchor for family life, and the quality of one’s housing is an important determinant of health and economic outcomes.

Whether it’s maintaining their home or connecting a family back to home as quickly as possible, Friends provides the safety net while working within our community to connect people to the supportive services they may need to be stable and secure.

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 (2Gen)   approaches build family well-being by intentionally and simultaneously working with children and the adults in their lives together. 

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

Eviction Prevention Court

Family Emergency Shelter

Homelessness Prevention

Housing Stability

The best way to reduce homelessness is to prevent it in the first place.

Friends’ Eviction Prevention Court Program (EPC) is a pilot project designed to assist vulnerable families and individuals who have been pushed to the brink of homelessness by unforeseen hardships and limited resources. The program provides free legal and social services support on the day of an eviction hearing.  Financial assistance may also be provided to prevent evictions, with connections to long-term financial and social supports to prevent future housing instability. The program is voluntary and will pilot in the District Court in Downingtown and expand to other Chester County Courts based on outcomes and funding availability.

EPC is a cross-system collaboration between the following organizations:

Friends Association
Chester County Courts
Chester County Department of Community Development
Housing Authority of Chester County
United Way of Chester County

EPC will work to assist Chester County residents who have received an eviction notice and whose situation is one of the following:

  • Tenants who have undergone a recent (temporary) life event that has caused them to fall behind in their rent.
  • Nonpayment of rent due to defensible claims: Tenants who have a legal defense for withholding rent (such as non-habitability of unit).
  • Lease violation: Tenants who are being evicted due to a lease violation.
  • Vulnerable population: Tenants who are considered vulnerable populations, including: households with very young children or babies, women who are pregnant, senior citizens, persons who have significant medical conditions, veterans, etc.

If you live in the Downingtown area, owe rent and need eviction prevention assistance, call Friends Association’s Eviction Prevention Court referral line at 610-431-3598 and press 1.  If you live outside of the Downingtown area, please call 2-1-1 for assistance.

ELIGIBILITY:

Clients receiving EPC services (legal advice, representation, social services support and/or financial assistance) must:

  • Have incomes at or below the program’s financial eligibility guidelines.
  • Be scheduled to appear in MDJ # 15-4-02.
  • Not have received financial assistance from the EPC program in the past 12 months.

Providing families with stable, safe housing is the first and most important step in accomplishing our mission of ending family homelessness.  Friends follows the Housing First model, which focuses on quickly moving families experiencing homelessness into permanent housing with leases in their own names. In cases where our Family Center is at full capacity, we provide emergency hotel stays for families. 

The journey home begins in our multi-unit apartment building located in West Chester. Simple but safe, quiet, clean, and private, each unit has a kitchen, bathroom, and living/sleeping space. Upon entering the Friends Family Center, each family receives an essentials kit that includes basic necessities for setting up their units, such as new sheets and towels; pots, pans, dishes, and flatware; and bathroom necessities like toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and toilet paper. Dignity and comfort are important to help families settle in so they can begin to focus on rebuilding.

Friends is the only low-barrier family shelter in Chester County that accepts families of every makeup and demographic. This includes single parents, families with older male dependents, two-generation families and LGBTQ+ families.

Homelessness has severe long-term effects on children’s physical health, mental wellness, behavioral and developmental progression and educational outcomes. The length of time spent homeless directly correlates to more serious adverse outcomes. Partnerships with Early Head Start and the Nurse Family Partnership help us to mitigate these outcomes by providing quality early learning opportunities and support for new parents and young children.

Facts:

48% of the kids living in Friends Shelter are under the age of 4

In the last year, Friends helped 25 families transition out of shelter and into homes of their own.

For a family facing a housing crisis, including eviction,  all of the work Friends does for and with our families in our Homelessness Prevention Program has a single overarching goal: to enable families to preserve a permanent home — a place where mothers and fathers and caregivers can raise their children in safety, peace, and dignity. We believe that everyone who comes through our doors has the potential to attain a better life for themselves and for future generations, ultimately breaking the cycle of homelessness.

Prevention programs include long-term case management combined with emergency funds and/or short-term rental subsidies, landlord mediation and supportive services.

Preventing homelessness—helping people stay in their homes—makes moral, practical and financial sense. It avoids the trauma of homelessness, which can cause life-long harm, particularly to children. Similarly it avoids disruption to school, work and community ties.

Facts:

Preventing homelessness is cost effective: according to a nine-city study, homelessness costs more than housing and supportive services (The Lewin Group).

More than 90% of families in our programs preserved their housing

70% of families in our prevention programs are led by women

100% of families receive financial management counseling, access to resources to help them to remain stable, and support with behavioral and physical health needs, if needed.

Our Housing Stability Program provides long-term case management for families recently moved to permanent housing from a shelter. Friends’ comprehensive support services help transition families from homelessness to housing and economic stability.  Case management includes a holistic, family-centered approach to services, working with the entire family (including children) to develop individual and family goals and measure progress.

Case managers provides resource and guidance on employment, education, financial literacy, Prepared Renters Program, and physical/mental health.

Families often experience a wide array of barriers that frequently disrupt family and housing stability.  We know that training and education alone does not ensure a family’s success without other support.

Our case management team helps to address these life issues, which can include transportation, finding reliable and affordable childcare, accessing resources for children with special needs, and accessing behavioral healthcare.

Facts:

People in stable housing show consistent improvement in areas such as health, reduced hospital stays, and reduced healthcare costs. (SAMHSA)

Stable housing can strengthen parenting and support early childhood development. (Urban Institute)

All of our programs include:

Skill Development

Health and Wellness

Healing & Resilience Building

Child Services & Education

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:

  1. Safety
  2. Trustworthiness and Transparency
  3. Peer Support and Mutual Self Help
  4. Collaboration and Mutuality
  5. Empowerment, Voice, and Choice
  6. 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)

Our Programs

Eviction Prevention Court

The best way to reduce homelessness is to prevent it in the first place.

Friends’ Eviction Prevention Court Program (EPC) is a pilot project designed to assist vulnerable families and individuals who have been pushed to the brink of homelessness by unforeseen hardships and limited resources. The program provides free legal and social services support on the day of an eviction hearing.  Financial assistance may also be provided to prevent evictions, with connections to long-term financial and social supports to prevent future housing instability. The program is voluntary and will pilot in the District Court in Downingtown and expand to other Chester County Courts based on outcomes and funding availability.

EPC is a cross-system collaboration between the following organizations:

Friends Association
Chester County Courts
Chester County Department of Community Development
Housing Authority of Chester County
United Way of Chester County

EPC will work to assist Chester County residents who have received an eviction notice and whose situation is one of the following:

  • Tenants who have undergone a recent (temporary) life event that has caused them to fall behind in their rent.
  • Nonpayment of rent due to defensible claims: Tenants who have a legal defense for withholding rent (such as non-habitability of unit).
  • Lease violation: Tenants who are being evicted due to a lease violation.
  • Vulnerable population: Tenants who are considered vulnerable populations, including: households with very young children or babies, women who are pregnant, senior citizens, persons who have significant medical conditions, veterans, etc.

If you live in the Downingtown area, owe rent and need eviction prevention assistance, call Friends Association’s Eviction Prevention Court referral line at 610-431-3598 and press 1.  If you live outside of the Downingtown area, please call 2-1-1 for assistance.

ELIGIBILITY:

Clients receiving EPC services (legal advice, representation, social services support and/or financial assistance) must:

  • Have incomes at or below the program’s financial eligibility guidelines.
  • Be scheduled to appear in MDJ # 15-4-02.
  • Not have received financial assistance from the EPC program in the past 12 months.

Family Emergency Shelter

Providing families with stable, safe housing is the first and most important step in accomplishing our mission of ending family homelessness.  Friends follows the Housing First model, which focuses on quickly moving families experiencing homelessness into permanent housing with leases in their own names. In cases where our Family Center is at full capacity, we provide emergency hotel stays for families. 

The journey home begins in our multi-unit apartment building located in West Chester. Simple but safe, quiet, clean, and private, each unit has a kitchen, bathroom, and living/sleeping space. Upon entering the Friends Family Center, each family receives an essentials kit that includes basic necessities for setting up their units, such as new sheets and towels; pots, pans, dishes, and flatware; and bathroom necessities like toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and toilet paper. Dignity and comfort are important to help families settle in so they can begin to focus on rebuilding.

Friends is the only low-barrier family shelter in Chester County that accepts families of every makeup and demographic. This includes single parents, families with older male dependents, two-generation families and LGBTQ+ families.

Homelessness has severe long-term effects on children’s physical health, mental wellness, behavioral and developmental progression and educational outcomes. The length of time spent homeless directly correlates to more serious adverse outcomes. Partnerships with Early Head Start and the Nurse Family Partnership help us to mitigate these outcomes by providing quality early learning opportunities and support for new parents and young children.

Facts:

48% of the kids living in Friends Shelter are under the age of 4

In the last year, Friends helped 25 families transition out of shelter and into homes of their own.

Homelessness Prevention

For a family facing a housing crisis, including eviction,  all of the work Friends does for and with our families in our Homelessness Prevention Program has a single overarching goal: to enable families to preserve a permanent home — a place where mothers and fathers and caregivers can raise their children in safety, peace, and dignity. We believe that everyone who comes through our doors has the potential to attain a better life for themselves and for future generations, ultimately breaking the cycle of homelessness.

Prevention programs include long-term case management combined with emergency funds and/or short-term rental subsidies, landlord mediation and supportive services.

Preventing homelessness—helping people stay in their homes—makes moral, practical and financial sense. It avoids the trauma of homelessness, which can cause life-long harm, particularly to children. Similarly it avoids disruption to school, work and community ties.

Facts:

Preventing homelessness is cost effective: according to a nine-city study, homelessness costs more than housing and supportive services (The Lewin Group).

More than 90% of families in our programs preserved their housing

70% of families in our prevention programs are led by women

100% of families receive financial management counseling, access to resources to help them to remain stable, and support with behavioral and physical health needs, if needed.

Housing Stability

Our Housing Stability Program provides long-term case management for families recently moved to permanent housing from a shelter. Friends’ comprehensive support services help transition families from homelessness to housing and economic stability.  Case management includes a holistic, family-centered approach to services, working with the entire family (including children) to develop individual and family goals and measure progress.

Case managers provides resource and guidance on employment, education, financial literacy, Prepared Renters Program, and physical/mental health.

Families often experience a wide array of barriers that frequently disrupt family and housing stability.  We know that training and education alone does not ensure a family’s success without other support.

Our case management team helps to address these life issues, which can include transportation, finding reliable and affordable childcare, accessing resources for children with special needs, and accessing behavioral healthcare.

Facts:

People in stable housing show consistent improvement in areas such as health, reduced hospital stays, and reduced healthcare costs. (SAMHSA)

Stable housing can strengthen parenting and support early childhood development. (Urban Institute)

All Our Programs Include:

Skill Development

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

Health & Wellness

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.

Healing and Resilience Building

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:

  1. Safety
  2. Trustworthiness and Transparency
  3. Peer Support and Mutual Self Help
  4. Collaboration and Mutuality
  5. Empowerment, Voice, and Choice
  6. 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.

 

 

Child Services & Education

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)

Our Partners

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