The Power of Life Skills Training–Opportunity House

A vital part of the S.M.I.L.E. program at Opportunity House is working to equip clients with valuable life skills training and abilities. Self-reliance is key for success and clients must be ready for the day they re-enter and start their journeys to become stably housed. Opportunity House invited representatives from MidPenn Legal Services to advise clients on how to navigate housing and rental concerns and issues.

The Foundation of Stable Housing

MidPenn Legal Services is a non-profit providing free civil legal services to low-income residents and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in 18 counties in Central Pennsylvania. They provided valuable information on the rights and responsibilities of tenants and what to do in instances where rights may be violated.

Clients also learned common expectations that lead to stable housing situations. Stable housing is a key foundation in life skills training for those dealing with homelessness. Julia VanTine, S.M.I.L.E. Program Director, confirms the importance of stable housing stating, “Clients live in a community here.  And although stable housing is the goal of every client, we find that some who finally get that housing feel alone and isolated when they leave. S.M.I.L.E. invites them to experience the power of supporting others and asking for and receiving support. When it comes to independent living, that’s as important a goal as employment.”

The Meaning of Success

Opportunity House offers a variety of programs and training for clients. Success comes in many forms and ways and is not always a straight-line process. Clients are required to attend classes and work towards bettering themselves while handling issues that prevent success and momentum. They do this in a supportive and nurturing environment focused on life skills training for those dealing with homelessness. This training provides applicable skills for real life. Clients need to be ready for issues that may happen and have a supportive network when help is needed. Organizations like MidPenn Legal Services and connections made at Opportunity House are vital for the success of clients as they move forward.

We Need You and Your Skills

Opportunity House is looking for organizations and individuals to share their skills and expertise with clients. Knowledge is valuable and you or your organization may have information that will make the difference for someone in their journey out of homelessness and into stability. Providing essential life skills training gives clients the tools they need to be successful. Please contact Julia VanTine at  to have your talent or receive more information about the program.

The S.M.I.L.E program will continue to offer valuable life skills training for those dealing with homelessness throughout the year.  The training offers a variety of actionable plans and strategies to help navigate the challenges of life. No one should have to struggle alone and Opportunity House will continue to partner with clients and organizations in Berks County and beyond to add value and direction to the lives of clients and the community.

Opportunity House has a profound impact on the lives of homeless and low-income families in the greater Reading and Berks County areas of Pennsylvania. We provide emergency shelter, meals, and housing to support men, women, children, and Veterans who are homeless.  The Second Street Learning Center provides Keystone 4 Star quality child care for children ages 6 weeks to 13 years including summer camp when school is not in session. OppShop is a retail thrift store located in Muhlenberg Township offering clothing, household items, furniture, books, DVDs, CDs, shoes, purses, and more. Our Reuse & Recycle Program diverts over 1,000,000 pounds from landfills each year.

About the Author

Matt Shaner is a writer living in Wyomissing with his wife Valerie and their two sons. He works at Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Hospital.  He obtained his MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University and is working on projects related to inspirational stories in Berks County and beyond. You can find his writing at


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