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Chester County Press

Editorial: Shoes that fit

05/16/2023 01:44PM ● By Richard Gaw

Perhaps the dirtiest and ugliest secret in this county of wealth and prosperity is that for all of its wealth and prosperity, Chester County has buried the vast and deep pockets of its poor so far beneath the rich soil of its landscape that they have become an invisible population.

They exist on the periphery of our county’s brilliantly-designed concepts of progress – beneath all of its plans for the new century and every last blueprint that has been waxed poetic by elected officials, architects, builders and business leaders. They have been afforded little opportunity. They do not have a family that provides for their every need. They often live in the makeshift squalor of inadequate dwellings that are easily susceptible to flooding and neglect.

They have been given no gifts, no jewels, but their hands are forever busy – in our restaurants, in our mushroom farms, in the darkened hallways of schools at night pushing brooms. Yet, for all of their labor, they live life contained in the small hope of merely getting by.

Most of them are not. According to the 2022 Chester County Point in Time Count, 402 individuals experienced sheltered or unsheltered homelessness in Chester County, and of that population, over 20 percent live in southern Chester County. Against that statistic is the fact that according to The Chester County Department of Community Development (DCD), there are only 1,408 existing affordable housing units in the county, not enough to serve the agency’s waitlist of over 3,700 applicants.

While our key visionaries continue their progressive rush to transform Chester County into an economic paradise, there are several agencies in our communities who expend their energies and resources in the pursuit of helping this population achieve self-respect, dignity and find a few opened doors. One of those non-profit organizations – Kennett Area Community Service (KACS) – has been championing the journey of this population for nearly 70 years, from food and financial support to crisis and stability management to providing a path forward through adult education to serving as a regional hub for housing assistance for low-income families.

KACS’ new Housing Initiative has become a forward-thinking solution that has taken on the affordable housing dilemma in southern Chester County, in order to find solutions and not just point fingers.

Just recently, KACS Housing Initiative received designation as a Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO) that now empowers KACS with the ability to economically invest in residential properties in its service area that will become permanent, sustainable, affordable rental options for low-income families.

Through CHDO designation – in alignment with our community partners Chester County Partnership to End Homelessness and the Southern Chester County Opportunity Network – KACS will be able to secure funding both for acquisitions, renovations and other capital expenses related to the property intended to become affordable housing for low- to moderate-income households, and for administrative support to oversee KACS Housing Initiative Program efforts.

Equality is the equivalent is giving everyone a shoe, but with their new CHDO accreditation, KACS will have more leverage to be able to provide this invisible population with shoes that fit.