Jan. 8, 2018 - Members of local nonprofit We Agape You, Inc.  has seen first hand the poverty and homelessness that prevails throughout Reading, PA. The city is one of the poorest in the nation, with a poverty rate of 36.8%. Among these numbers are many veterans, the same men and women that put their lives on the line in order to secure freedom for our country. The epidemic of unemployment and homelessness in Berks County demands that organizations and the community work together to create a solution. This is why the organization is reaching out to our city of Reading, the mayor, and other organizations and individuals to create community partnerships throughout the county in order to build the Veteran’s Business, Employment, and Housing Center (V.B.E.H.C.) in the historic district at 353 N. 5th St. Reading.

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, a veteran commits suicide every 65 seconds. One of the major epidemics facing veterans is chronic homelessness and unemployment. We Agape You formed their roots by visiting the many veteran tent cities in the Reading area occupied by veterans and providing them food and other essentials. The agency soon realized they were merely putting a band-aid on a much bigger problem. In order for a person to no longer live on the streets, they require job training and access to employment. They also need to be in affordable housing that they are able to maintain.

We Agape You then shifted focus from providing comforts to veterans to creating employment and the affordable housing that was needed. The organization partnered with Wells Fargo CUSP to receive donated properties that were in need of extensive repair. They implemented The W.A.Y. Program, which allowed veterans, residents of Hope Rescue Mission and inmates of The Department of Corrections in ADAPPT House and Wernersville Corrections Center to learn general labor and construction skills while assisting to rehabilitate the CUSP donated properties. By gaining these skills it helps to ensure these veterans and homeless can reenter society with a job skill that will earn them an income and reduce recidivism.

To date, We Agape You has successfully rehabilitated 7 houses throughout Berks and surrounding counties that have been turned into affordable housing. In 2017 the organization announced they would be donating a house annually to a veteran in need. The 2017 recipient was a disabled, homeless veteran who was a father of 5. The family was donated a 7 bedroom home in Schuylkill County after they lost all of their possessions in Hurricane Maria while living in Puerto Rico. These rehabilitations could not have been possible without the numerous community partners the organization has teamed up with which include Home Depot, Walmart, Lowes, and many local churches, banks, realtors, and Lions Club, etc. You can visit our website at www.weagapeyou.org for a full list of partnerships.

The organization continues on finding ways to reduce the veteran unemployment and homeless population and eradicate the problems that communities face when there are blighted properties. The U.S. reports some 3.5 million homeless and a whopping figure of 18.6 million vacant homes!  In Reading alone the number of homeless are in the hundreds with a whopping  thousands of condemned and dilapidated properties!!!! These numbers clearly show the necessity of rehabilitating these homes to create employment and affordable housing for veterans.

The housing structures are there to end this epidemic, but it takes the community coming together in order to effectively revitalize and end the epidemic. Blighted properties create crime dens and reduce the quality of life as well as property values. These abandoned homes pose a real problem to all members of the community. With the ever increasing crime and drug rates it is imperative that these vacant homes be eradicated. It also puts the homes back on the market to earn revenue for the county.

The reason for the number of dilapidated properties are many, but most landlords can’t afford to make the repairs and keep up with the bills that come with their properties in the unsteady economy we currently face. Most owners of both residential and commercial properties are NOT aware of the win/win situation in donating these properties to a nonprofit.  It relieves the homeowner of continuing municipal and tax bills while giving them a tax credit for the fair market value of the property. In turn they are helping to renovate the neighborhoods the homes are sitting vacant in. Those looking to donate their property are encouraged to seek their attorney’s advice on the advantages.

With the completion of the Veteran’s Business, Employment, and Housing Center, there will be a centralized location for veterans to receive training, affordable housing, and employment trainings. We Agape You will be seeking partnerships with the community and the City of Reading.

Individuals, businesses, and other organizations that wish to become community partners and establish working relationships on the project should contact the company. Any donations towards this project may do so in several ways. Donations can be earmarked directly for either building supplies or contractor fees. To do so checks can be mailed to:

Sun Federal Credit Union

2209 Quarry Dr. Suite C-37

West Lawn, PA 19609
Checks should be made out to We Agape You, Inc. and designate building supply donation 01 or contractor fee donation 02. Donations can also be made directly to the organization at PO Box 254 Wenersville, PA 19565 or via PayPal to weagapeyou@gmail.com or via donate link on their website www.weagapeyou.org.