The RCI Village is the first permanent, community-supported affordable housing program in Allentown. Based on the Jubilee Housing Program in Washington, DC, the RCI Village provides safe, stable, affordable housing, and the supports and connections that residents need to achieve long-term housing - and life - stability.
In Allentown, many people are caught in an unending cycle between homelessness and temporary housing solutions that aren’t safe, don’t work, or don’t last. The RCI Village is a community-centered housing initiative that addresses the need for permanent, affordable rental housing in the city. The RCI Village places quality, affordable housing at the center of a web of related supports and services designed to bolster resident success and stability. It's based on a model in Washington, DC called Jubilee Housing, which has successfully maintained a stock of high quality affordable housing in a neighborhood that has undergone a significant economic revitalization.
The RCI Village is based in 13 apartments (ranging in size from 1 to 3 bedrooms) at our Linden Street property. The apartments house individuals and families who were formerly homeless or who have chronically struggled to maintain stable housing. The RCI Village fosters a supportive community environment through regular social events and activities (such as game nights, community dinners, and holiday events). The program also provides individualized supports to residents through dedicated staff support and partnerships with existing services, including the Center for Independent Living, CareerLink, and the Lehigh County Mental Health Program. This suite of supports helps RCI Village residents maintain their apartments, which in turn allows them to maintain stable employment, pursue educational goals, improve their food security, or move forward with other aspects of their lives.
Frequently Asked Questions about the RCI Village Program
Q: Is the RCI Village a free housing program?
A: No. Residents of the RCI Village pay rent, based on locally-calculated affordable rental rates.
Q: Is the RCI Village a Housing First program?
A: No. Housing First is a very specific model that includes intensive supports including on-site psychiatric care, medical care, and other interventions. The RCI Village is community-supported housing, which is a less intensive approach that still recognizes the need for people to live community.
Q: Is the RCI Village funded by HUD or other federal funds?
A: No, the RCI Village is funded entirely by private funding sources, such as foundation grants, corporate grants, and individual donations. Federal funds come with many restrictions that make it difficult to meet the specific needs of our community.
Q: Is the RCI Village program unique to Allentown?
A: The RCI Village is modeled after the Jubilee Housing program in Washington, DC (to learn more, visit www.JubileeHousing.org). We have adapted this model for use in Allentown, but the RCI Village reflects the main characteristics of Jubilee Housing. For 40 years, Jubilee Housing has maintained a stock of affordable, well-maintained rental housing in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood of DC, even as that neighborhood has experienced a significant economic revitalization.
Q: Does Allentown really need another housing program?
A: It’s true that there are a lot of housing programs in Allentown. However, most of the existing programs have time limits (people are only allowed to stay for a few weeks or months) or are restricted to certain groups of people (such as veterans or women with children). What Allentown is missing are programs that focus on housing for people in the city who need a little extra help. It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of stable housing. When our housing is unstable, nothing else in life works: not employment, not school attendance for children, not relationships, not health. Housing stability is a first, foundational step toward stability and success in other areas of life, which is why the RCI Village is a permanent housing program.
Q: Is rental housing in Allentown really so bad? Why can’t RCI Village residents just rent apartments like everybody else?
A: As is true in any city, rentals in Allentown run the gamut from high-end, luxury apartments (think Strata) to sub-standard, even unsafe apartments (think apartments with no heat, no locks on the doors, or windows that don’t close). Lower-cost apartments are in high demand, which means they are hard to come by and unscrupulous and opportunistic landlords are in a position to take advantage of renters whose other housing options are limited. It also means that the cost of low-end apartments is higher that it should be for the area (we have participants who pay over $800 per month for unsafe apartments. We often say that our friends are “precariously housed”, meaning they are caught in a constant cycle between homelessness and unsafe, unstable rentals, and they are constantly at risks of losing their housing because of failed building inspections, economic challenges, health crises, or strained relationships with family members, friends, or landlords
Q: How long can people stay in the RCI Village program?
A: Like the Jubilee Housing model on which our program is based, the RCI Village provides permanent housing. This means that residents are encouraged to remain in the program for as long as it is appropriate for them.
Q: How do you decide who gets to live in your apartments?
A: Those are extremely difficult decisions because the need is so great. People who are interested in being part of the RCI Village can approach us directly or be recommended through one of our partner organizations. Our Community Life Director meets with every applicant, and works with them through a very simple application process that asks some basic questions about the applicant’s household and their housing history. Those applications are then reviewed by a Resident Selection Committee made up of representatives from RCI, the LVHN Street Medicine Clinic, and the Sacred Heart Parish Nursing Program. The Selection Committee makes decisions about who to invite into the program based on need, fit, and, in many cases, long-term relationships with the applicants.
Q: What makes RCI the right organization to run this program?
A: RCI emerged from Ripple Church, an urban Anabaptist faith community whose congregation is composed almost entirely of Allentown residents who have been socially marginalized due to poverty, homelessness, mental illness, abuse, or related issues. Since 2011, Ripple Church has worked to establish trust, restore critical relationships, build community, and address spiritual, material, relational needs among its roughly 100 congregants. RCI was founded in November 2015 as an independent 501(c)(3) to take the work of Ripple Church into the broader community. Since then, RCI has established a unique community that is marked by mutual respect and inclusion. Our work reflects our deeply-held value of doing with our participants, as opposed to doing for or doing to, which are approaches frequently reflected in similar programs. Our organizational culture creates space for all voices to be heard and included. The fruits of these efforts are reflected in participants’ descriptions of their experiences. For example, our participants have described the Community Building Center as a place to “listen to each other”, “a place to help each other”, and a place where “we’re all valued”. The work of relationship and community building is slow, but by investing the time and energy required to build a foundation of trust we have earned a level of access to our participants’ lives that allows us to influence and effect behavior change. The RCI Village will build on this foundation of trust, which places RCI in a unique position to effectively address housing challenges faced by our population.
Q: What supports are available to residents of the RCI Village?
A: The RCI Village program begins with well-maintained, affordable rental housing. In addition to housing, the program provides support to residents to help ensure long-term housing and life stability. These supports come from program staff, service partnerships, and community building opportunities.
Q: What do you mean by service partnerships?
A: The are already organizations in and around Allentown that provide needed services for vulnerable residents, including job training programs, GED classes, early childhood education programs, parenting support groups, and financial literacy training. The RCI Village will not replicate any of these services. Rather, we will support residents in accessing, navigating, and sustaining appropriate services through partnerships with existing service organizations and agencies.
Q: How can I help?
A: We welcome your partnership and support for the RCI Village program. Please contact us if you are interested in getting involved!