It All Comes Down to Poverty: A Social Work Perspective on the Borough

Emery Malachowski, Managing Editor of Juniatian and Desk Editor of Kvasir Literary Magazine

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Lily Formosa, a senior at Juniata College, has been extensively involved in the Huntingdon community, and spoke to us for our Huntingdon Borough serial in her capacity as a social work major.

Formosa is interning this semester at the Center for Community Action, which is an organization in town that fulfills a plethora of services to Huntingdon, Bedford, Blair, Mifflin, Somerset County and more. Her office specifically often focuses on helping those who are in transitional housing situations, such as those moving into Section 8 housing, some senior citizens and the homeless. The Center also runs a weatherization program: glazing windows for winter, caulking windows and checking fridges and pipes.

A striking characteristic of the Center is the diversity of the services they provide. The Center in Bedford works with prisoners to get their GED, and there’s a work ready program to help people overcome barriers to employment, especially transportation issues and learning soft skills. They work with the Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC), which gives subsidies for childcare. They’ve also partnered with the Employment Advancement and Retention Network (EARN), CareerLink and the Chamber of Commerce.

Formosa’s internship was linked through the social work program at Juniata College, which has had a long relationship with the Center for Community Action. Formosa’s history with Huntingdon community involvement did not begin with the Center—in the past she’s worked with Westminster Woods Continuing Care Community, the soup kitchen and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Gap Drive, which helped supply the Huntingdon population with essential products that SNAP doesn’t cover like hygiene products and tampons.

“It all comes down to poverty,” she explains, when asked about the issues in Huntingdon. “That is the root cause of the issues we’re facing.” According to the United States Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimate project, Huntingdon County had a 14.9% poverty rate in 2017.

Formosa would characterize the Huntingdon community as “more diverse than people think” in world views. She says that people associated with the college are usually open-minded, but a lot of people in the community are too in a “more subdued way.” Formosa says that if you take the time to really interact and get to know people you shouldn’t have any problems, and that you’ll uncover a variety of perspectives. “I’ve never had any problems with community members,” she says, even though she knows other people that have.

“You should learn to tolerate people with different views than you now,” she said, emphasizing that there will be diverse opinions everywhere you go, and the sooner people understand how to deal with that the better it will be.