Lehigh Valley

Easton homeless shelter expanding, will designate some beds for homeless female veterans

EASTON, Pa. - Easton's Safe Harbor homeless shelter is expanding to offer additional beds for women.

They plan to add 10 to 12 beds, some of which will be designated for homeless female veterans. This is the biggest expansion Safe Harbor has undergone in 30 years.

Executive Director Jeff Poch said Safe Harbor acquired a nearby building which they turned into office and classroom space. The new space allowed them to free up rooms in the shelter that will be renovated and turned into a second women's dorm.  

Poch said women, particularly female veterans, are a vulnerable and underserved population in the Lehigh Valley.

"There are very limited places to go for single adult women. We have a lot of places that tailor to females and children."

Michelle Oncay knows the struggle all too well. She slept outside for a month, calling Safe Harbor every day until a bed became available.

"Being a single woman, the need to get into a shelter is extremely hard. There are only 3 locations [(n the Lehigh Valley) for a single female," she said.

"It's extremely stressful being on the streets, living on the streets, living in a pavilion. That's literally where I was. Living in a pavilion for a month."

Oncay isn't a veteran but says she knows women who are and said Safe Harbor's additional services are needed.

"Between Bethlehem and Easton, I have seen a lot of female veterans out there. They do need help. They do need a place to go. They are living in tents, living on the streets."

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