NEWBURYPORT — In the fourth installment of its “Invisible Neighbor” series, Pennies for Poverty will highlight the need for affordable housing in a roundtable discussion Oct. 16 with local members of the YWCA and Habitat for Humanity.

Pennies for Poverty board President Sue McKittrick emphasized the importance of affordable housing, saying, “Housing must be addressed before all other issues can be addressed.”

During last month’s discussion, McKittrick said they focused on “the mechanics of getting affordable housing built: financing, zoning, community relations, etc.”

“The October session,” McKittrick continued, “focuses on ‘why bother?’ That is, how does availability of affordable housing affect new residents and what does it take to build and support new housing?”

Speakers will include Vicki Carr of YWCA Newburyport; Jacques Du Preez, Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity’s director of marketing; John Feehan, executive director of YWCA Newburyport; and the Rev. Joan MacPherson, pastor of Main Street Congregational Church and a member of Habitat’s family selection committee.

All four speakers have helped develop housing for low-income individuals and families, including the recently built affordable housing units on Elm and Maple streets in Salisbury.

McKittrick noted the “impact of decent housing,” saying it’s as simple as having “a place to cook and a place to do homework.”

Housing goes beyond just the zoning, financing and building of structures, though.

“Once people are in new housing,” McKittrick said, “they need a whole range of support services to get integrated into the community.”

Past discussions have covered topics such as food insecurity and poverty. Instead, this discussion will focus on the necessity of adequate housing to create foundations for individuals and families to solve those other issues.

“Do we want to be a welcoming community?” McKittrick said. “Do we want to remain the home for the people who have built our towns and cities into what they are today?”

“If so, we can’t stand still and let market forces be the only driver of the housing prices,” she added. “We need to address the lack of affordable housing before lack of housing turns businesses away and we become ‘has been’ communities. The organizations speaking have stepped up to the challenge. We need to learn from them.”

The roundtable discussion begins at 7 p.m. at Central Congregational Church, 14 Titcomb St., Newburyport. For more information, go to penniesforpoverty.org/2019/08/decent-housing-changes-lives.

Staff reporter Heather Alterisio can be reached via email at halterisio@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt.

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