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Grant money gives hope to those struggling to keep homes

POSTED December 15, 2009 11:46 p.m.
Four local organizations came together to apply for federal funds to help the increasing number of people who find themselves, due to job loss or foreclosure, in need of housing assistance.
Their efforts were successful and at the Dec. 8 Turlock City Council meeting, the council accepted $1.6 million from the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing grant that was applied for by the United Samaritans Foundation, We Care, the Children’s Crisis Center and the Stanislaus County Community Assistance Project, who spearheaded the project.
The money will be used to help people in Turlock pay for rent and utilities, said Mike Pitcock, City of Turlock director of development services/city engineer.
“This money is used for people at risk for homeless, not for people who are chronically homeless,” said Maryn Pitt, City of Turlock housing program services manager.
Local residents who wish to apply for housing assistance through this grant can now apply at the City of Turlock Housing Program Services Department. Those who apply need to show a notice of eviction or a notice of their utilities being turned off, along with their social security card, Pitt said. The grant money will help provide assistance to people on the verge of homelessness for up to 18 months.
The funding was made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that was signed by President Barack Obama on Feb. 17, which included $1.5 billion for a Homelessness Prevention Fund.
The HPRP program’s purpose is to provide homelessness prevention assistance for households who would otherwise become homeless and provide assistance to rapidly re-house people who, through these difficult economic times, have become homeless, according to information on the city council agenda.
The grant money will provide funds for a variety of assistance including short-term or medium-term rental assistance, housing relocation; and stabilization services including mediation, credit counseling, security or utility deposits, utility payments, moving cost assistance and case management.
About 60 percent of the funds must be spent within two years with all funds spent within three years, according to the city.
Along with accepting the $1.6 million of grant money on Dec. 8, the council also approved funds to pay back the Community Development Block Grant funding for $150,000 for the discontinuation of the 400 B St. building that once was the permanent homeless shelter downtown.
This money will be put back into the City of Turlock’s funds to be used for any Community Development Block Grant eligible project.
In order for the city to put the money back into their account, they had to change their HUD-mandated five-year Consolidated Plan to reflect the change in homeless strategy that originally used the CDBG funds to construct the permanent homeless shelter.
The amendment to the plan includes three key components of the revised strategy. Those components include: The city providing funding to We Care to operate a homeless shelter for men, the city providing technical support to the faith-based organizations to provide a program for single women and families, and the city providing funding to the Community Housing and Shelter Services to provide hotel vouchers and counseling to homeless individuals.
With the amendments to the plan, the city is required to provide public notices including a 30 day public comment period that was held Oct. 22.
At the public meeting on Oct. 22, members of the community suggested some amendments that should be included in the new Consolidated Plan that reflect that the organizations helping the homeless are not being taken care of like the new amendments suggest.
“The participants felt that no program has been developed to provide for the cold weather needs of the homeless community, especially women and children,” according to city staff reports.
Community members in attendance at the Oct. 22 meeting requested that the city provide a clear direction to staff on the reuse of the CDBG funds that were returned to HUD and asked the City Council to consider directing those funds to the organizations that are currently serving the homeless population within the City of Turlock.
According to Pitt, the funds have not yet been reallocated. The $150,000 can be used for a laundry list of things such as public improvements, rehab for abandoned homes, or anything that is consistent with the five-year Consolidation Plan, Pitt said.
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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