Housing complex for migrant workers opens

Source: Evening Sun - Tim Pratt (05-10-06)

This is one of seven single-story duplex buildings in the Jonathan Court Apartments in Aspers that opened Tuesday for use by migrant workers.

This is one of seven single-story duplex buildings in the Jonathan Court Apartments in Aspers that opened Tuesday for use by migrant workers.

A 14-unit development that will provide housing for 52 migrant farm workers opened in Aspers on Tuesday.

The development, dubbed Jonathan Court Apartments, consists of seven single-story duplex buildings at 1731 Center Mills Road.

Congressman Todd Platts, R-Spring Garden, attended an open house and spoke of the importance migrant farm workers have on the local economy.

“This housing is going to allow the migrant workforce that comes here to Adams County to have a great place to live,” he said. “They can be here for the harvesting; they can be here helping the production facilities; they can help benefit the economy here in Adams County and their own quality of life.”

The project, which includes 13 two-bedroom units, is sponsored by Rural Opportunities Inc. and the Farmworker Housing Corp. of Pennsylvania. The remaining unit will serve as housing for an on-site manager and supportive-service provider.

“I think what today is really about is the human interest side of the story. It’s about many people coming together to provide that affordable housing opportunity for those migrant workers who will be housed here during their stay here in Adams County,” Platts said. “And that’s truly what America is about: looking out for each other.”

Officials said the project would allow each migrant farm worker to live in the development for about $50 per week, including utilities.

Currently, Adams County has more than 1,000 migrants who come into the county for the growing and harvesting season, said Michael Johnson, deputy for housing administration at Rural Opportunities Inc.

“Many of them, because of the wages they earn, can’t afford an apartment on their own,” he said.

As a result, they live in overcrowding conditions because they share an apartment or even a small hotel room, with five, six, or seven other people, he said.

“This particular development will give them an affordable option,” Johnson said.

“The industry is changing; we know that from a labor perspective,” Rural Opportunities Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Stuart Mitchell said. “We know the immigration debate that is going on in our country right now is witnessed right here today because this is where workers come to work and where employers need workers to work.

“This project is one of the first in the northeast designed to house migrant workers - people who are here on a seasonal basis going back and forth from Texas or Florida - who are up here for the harvest season.”

Mitchell said that migrant workers will only be housed in the development for roughly seven months of the year, and he expects migrant workers to begin moving into the complex immediately.

“It would be easy to fill it up with people that live here year-round,” Mitchell said. “But part of our goal is to provide decent, safe, affordable housing for people who are up here doing seasonal farm work.”

“We’re ready to be operational and we will be in the very near future,” he said.

Mitchell said that Aspers was chosen as the location of the development because it is in the “heart” of the agricultural community.

“This is where workers need to be in order to go to work,” he said. “We really wanted to be in a place where workers could go from their place of residence right to work.”

Kay Washington, senior executive director of Rural Opportunities, Inc., said the complex has been in the works for more than a decade. She felt the opening is a major step forward for migrant farm workers in upper Adams County.

“It will represent a home away from home for many of our migrant farm workers that come into the area,” Washington said. “It will benefit not just the farm workers, but the growers and the community as a whole.”

Photo By: Tim Pratt

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