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Millions spent to help county residents
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The Stanislaus County Community Development Block Grant Consortium – consisting of Stanislaus County and Cities of Ceres, Newman, Oakdale, Patterson, and Waterford – received $2.6 million in state and federal funds last year.

At Tuesday’s Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors meeting, the consortium presented on how those dollars were spent to benefit low and moderate income county residents, and to reduce community blight.

“Each year our department quietly goes about the business of administering out Community Development Block Grant programs,” said Kirk Ford, director of Planning and Community Development for Stanislaus County. “… Our Community Development Division truly touches a lot of peoples’ lives and I’m proud of what they do.”

Given the region’s foreclosure crisis – and the availability of federal stimulus funds to directly deal with foreclosures – a majority of the consortium’s activities dealt with the housing market.

Using $6.8 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds, not included in the aforementioned $2.3 million in CDBG grants, the consortium acquired 65 foreclosed homes. Of those, 46 have already been rehabilitated – reducing blight – and 20 have been resold to first-time homebuyers earning up to 120 percent of the area median income. On 17 of those homes, energy efficient solar panels were installed, creating 20 jobs for displaced local workers.

For county residents who couldn’t quite afford a down payment on a new home, the consortium provided down payment assistance of up to $50,000 for low-income households. In the unincorporated areas of the county, 15 homes were purchased through the program. Oakdale and Patterson, which operate their own versions of a similar program, assisted six families and one family, respectively.

Those in danger of losing their homes – or already displaced – were aided by the consortium’s Homeless Prevention & Rapid Re-Housing Program. Funded with $1 million in stimulus funds, the program prevented homelessness for 54 individuals – 14 households – and rapidly re-housed 71 individuals – 28 households.

Six families who already own homes were assisted with repair costs for emergency health and safety issues through the Home Rehabilitation Program.

The program also provides fair housing services through Project Sentinel, covering discrimination investigations, education, and outreach. Project Sentinel provided 529 clients with services last year.

For the first time, the consortium set aside funding to assist very low and low-income residents in underserved areas in Stanislaus County – unincorporated areas, Ceres, Newman, Oakdale, Patterson, and Waterford – previously neglected due to a lack of funding. In total, $353,906 was distributed to 21 public service programs across the county.

CDBG funds provided more than 55,000 county residents with public services, including 780 who received tech training to improve computer literacy skills – and job opportunities. The cities of Newman, Oakdale, and Patterson also used CDBG funds to provide computer literacy training.

The Stanislaus Literacy Center provided needed training as well, offering English classes to 40 individuals from the Oakdale area.

Children were aided by funds directed to Catholic Charities, which assisted with health insurance assistance for 126 children age 0-18. The Children’s Crisis Center also worked with youth, providing shelter and nutritious meals to 114 children at risk of abuse, neglect, or homelessness in Ceres, and 200 such children in Oakdale.

The Center for Human Services provided case management services for 331 low income residents of Oakdale, Knights Ferry, and Valley Home, thanks to CDBG funds. The group also helped 36 low to moderate income youth from Ceres to participate in the Ceres Youth Court, and provided health insurance enrollment, resume development, translation services, and parenting education to 223 individuals.

Healthy Aging provided strength training to 295 county seniors. Healthy Start – Orville Wright provided case management services to 197 low income residents of Modesto’s Airport Neighborhood.

Wheelchair ramps and grab bars were provided for 28 disabled county residents through the Disability Resource Agency for Independent Living. Habitat for Humanity also helped with home renovations, installing new energy efficient windows in 127 low to moderate income owner-occupied households.

The hungry were also fed through CDBG funds, with the Second Harvest Food Bank aiding 49,061 individuals through its Food Assistance Program, which brings food to local food pantries at discount prices. The ARC/Howard Training Center delivered nutritious meals to 719 seniors. The Westside Food Pantry offered 9,471 Westside residents with emergency food.

The United Samaritans Foundation also provided lunches, five days a week, 52 weeks a year, to 1,910 very low income, low income, and homeless individuals in Ceres and Keyes. West Modesto King Kennedy Collaborative provided food and personal hygiene supplies to 100 homeless in West Modesto.

In total, approximately 550 homeless individuals received assistance through the Emergency Shelter Program portion of consortium activities, with We Care providing a winter homeless shelter and supportive services to 141 homeless individuals. Family Promise offered emergency shelter and case management to 100 members of homeless families.

Community Housing & Shelter Services provided homeless prevention services to 120 individuals through rental assistance vouchers. Inter-Faith Ministries Redwood Family Center provided shelter and supportive services to 117 homeless women with children.

In efforts to curb blight, the consortium also directs a sizable portion of its revenues each year to infrastructure improvement projects.

The largest such project was first phase of the Empire Infrastructure project, comprised of new curbs, gutters, handicap returns, new street sections, a storm drain collection system, and a self-contained underground French drain. The infrastructure project was conducted in the area generally bounded by Highway 132 on the south, E Street on the west, I Street on the east, 2nd Street and Center Avenue on the north.

In Ceres, another infrastructure project rehabilitated curb, gutter, and sidewalks on 5th and 9th streets. Newman infrastructure projects completed the construction of the PQRST Streets, as well as curb, gutter, and sidewalk installation on portions of Fresno Street, Merced Street, and West Avenue.

An Oakdale infrastructure project replaced water and sewer mains along Oak Avenue, rehabilitated the street, and installed sidewalks, curb, gutter, storm trains, and Americans with Disabilities Act compliant ramps. Patterson saw the completion of engineering and design for the Downtown Infrastructure Project – consisting of new water mains, curbs, gutters, storm drain, and street improvements – with construction to begin next year.

CDBG funds also improved recreation opportunities within the county, allowing for the completion of the second phase of Newman’s Pioneer Park, featuring a new picnic shelter, concrete slab, new concrete way, and electrical improvements. In Waterford, Brethren Park was rehabilitated, including sidewalks, curb, gutter, storm drainage, ADA improvements, landscaping, and installation of an irrigation system. The park will be completed next year.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.