If you are looking to Volunteer, Donate or Shop make sure to check out Opportunity House and all the services and opportunities they offer. Nationally, almost 40 million people, including 13 million children, lived in poverty in 2017. The same number lived in hunger or on the edge of hunger.
But homelessness and hunger are issues in Berks County, too. Over 2,000 students in our community don’t have a fixed nighttime residence for part or all of the school year, and medical bills can push our neighbors to the brink of homelessness.
Opportunity House has been helping the homeless population of our area since 1984 and has expanded significantly since then. Our emergency shelter served over 500 people and 90,000 meals last year. We also offer a childcare and learning center, assistance for veterans, and reuse and recycle services that reinvest funds back into our agency to further support our mission and services.
In the winter of 1981, a man living on the streets of Reading perished in the cold. The next winter, it happened again. In 1983, as cold weather approached, local churches sheltered men with nowhere to go in a desperate bid to save lives. By November 1984, the Reading Emergency Shelter at 430 North Second Street opened its doors to homeless men—just in time for winter.
Today, we’re Opportunity House, a name that reflects the diversity of our programs to help our most vulnerable neighbors rebuild their lives. Our 75-bed emergency shelter operates year-round and serves families, women, and veterans as well as men. In 2019, we served 531 men, women, and children.
Successful clients stay at the shelter 30-60 days and meet regularly with their case managers to rebuild purposeful, self-sufficient lives. In 2017, 30 of 37 families (80%), 43 of 69 single women (62%), and 68 of 116 single men (58%) re-joined the community, with safe housing and a source of income to sustain it. From November to early April—the bitter-cold “Code Blue” season—our doors are open from 7 pm to 7 am to those outside our program to escape the cold.
Families in our supportive housing programs live in apartments and townhouses close to Opportunity House. To qualify for these programs, individuals and families must successfully complete our shelter program and put 30% of their monthly income towards rent and utilities.
Our supportive housing programs serves families that make positive changes in our emergency shelter but are not ready to transition to the community. This program provides safe, affordable housing to formerly homeless individuals and families, including those with physical and/or mental disabilities.
Also, we provide housing assistance and supportive services to qualifying veteran families, ask for more information on that program. The goal of the SSVF program is to provide housing stability to low-income Veteran families.
SECOND STREET LEARNING & TECHNOLOGY CENTER
Located in Opportunity House at 430 North 2nd Street, the Second Street Learning Center opened in October 1996 to give homeless mothers an opportunity to participate in life skill classes offered at our shelter. It quickly became the answer to working parents in the Reading area. A combination of an increased need for these services and support from the community allowed the learning center to expand their hours, becoming the first 24-hour a day, 7-day a week childcare program.
REUSE & RECYCLE SERVICES
On July 23, 2015, we opened OppShop , our upscale retail thrift shop located in Penn Plaza, at 3045 North 5th Street Highway in Muhlenberg Township. OppShop provides both short- and long-term benefits to our clients, the agency and our community. We offer warehouse and retail jobs to those in need of work and support people who receive assistance from the multiple services we provide, as revenue from the store is reinvested back into our agency. By donating items to OppShop you divert waste from landfills, which helps improve our local environment.