Anita Lyndaker-Studer, former executive director of Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association, stepped down from the position two years ago to spend more time with her family. But as COVID-19 continued to keep the world on shutdown, she knew she needed to help people in need.
Lyndaker-Studer took over as the Northeast Philadelphia coordinator of Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network last September, helping individuals find housing and other needs amidst the pandemic. During the pandemic, work like this is more important than ever.
“The work we do is essential,” she said.
PIHN is a social service organization seeking to end homelessness with an office at 6730 Torresdale Ave. in Tacony and one in Northwest Philadelphia. Since September, the Northeast office has serviced at least 20 families (including 33 children) by allocating funds for eviction prevention and relocation assistance. The office has also provided alternative shelter for five of those families as well as providing food, winter coats and household goods.
Lyndaker-Studer said there’s no shortage of people needing help right now.
“Folks have had hours cut or lost jobs and the area is really impacted, especially in the Northeast,” she said.
PIHN has been able to utilize COVID relief city and state grants to help families as well as raising funds through the Northeast Philadelphia COVID-19 Relief Fund, a program it started to raise private donations. The private fund has covered things the government grants don’t cover including medical expenses in a domestic violence situation and housing repairs to make sure the housing was safe.
Lyndaker-Studer recalled helping a woman with a disability gather the funds to move out of Section 8 housing, where she was living in unsafe conditions with an unresponsive landlord. PIHN drew money from the fund to help pay for her security deposit for new, safe housing.
There was also an instance of a retired veteran who couldn’t afford a refrigerator and was eating only nonperishable items. A friend reached out to PIHN when they were concerned for his well-being, and they were able to give him a fridge.
“There are all kinds of stress involved with COVID, but at least in terms of employment and housing, some folks are doing fine,” Lyndaker-Studer said.
“If there are folks in a stable position, let’s help each other out and help those in the community,” she said.
To learn more or make a donation, visit PhilaShelter.org. ••