Grants to help prevent area homelessness

Published 9:21 am Saturday, September 12, 2009

ISLE OF WIGHT—With foreclosures and evictions rising along with unemployment, many people are facing something they never thought that they would — homelessness. However, a grant will soon help local families that are already homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless.

Gov. Tim Kaine announced Wednesday more than $11 million in grants through the Homelessness and Rapid Re-Housing Program, authorized through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or the stimulus package.

Locally, the Isle of Wight County Department of Social Services was awarded $363,631. However, the money will be divided among Social Services Departments in Franklin and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties.

Pamela Barton, director of Isle of Wight County Department of Social Services, said that she met with the social services directors from Franklin and Southampton County, and they decided to pursue the grant as a collaborative effort.

“(Isle of Wight County) had the agency resources and we already had a process in place,” she said.

Although Isle of Wight County’s Department of Social Services is listed as the grantee, those seeking help in Franklin and Southampton County will be administered assistance through their local Departments of Social Services.

In order to be eligible for the assistance, a family must be at or below 50 percent of the area median income limit and either homeless or at-risk of losing their home without appropriate subsequent housing options

“The funding is designed for families and individuals who would be homeless but for this assistance,” said Bill Shelton, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development director. “It is designed to serve as a true safety net.”

Those determined to be eligible for the program can receive rental assistance, security and utility deposit or utility payments, moving cost assistance, motel/hotel vouchers, and case management in particularly complex housing situations.

“We estimated that through this funding we would possibly be helping about 140 families,” Barton said. Those receiving assistance must be evaluated and recertified every three months.

Barton said that it’s important to note that this is not a mortgage assistance program, and that Congress has established other programs to assist those dealing with the mortgage crisis.

“Our understanding is that there is a lot of flexibility,” Barton said. She said that about 70 percent of the grant funding will go toward vendor services, 25 percent will go toward case management and 5 percent will be used to collect and report required data to the federal government.