Federal grants give a boost to housing aid

Several local service organizations that provide housing assistance to homeless and at-risk individuals recently were awarded a total of more than $300,000 in federal Housing and Urban Development funds, allowing them to keep their doors open through next year.

"This is a joint application that we do with a consortium of organizations here in the Rogue Valley," said Bryce Brooks, director of youth and family services at Community Works. "We feel very lucky to get funding for our program year after year."

The money comes from HUD's Continuum of Care program, a project that annually awards federal grants to local programs in hopes of preventing and ending homelessness. This year HUD awarded more than $19.2 million to more than 112 homeless assistance programs in Oregon, up from nearly $18.2 million last year.

In Jackson County, ACCESS Inc., Community Works, the Rogue Valley Council of Governments, and the Salvation Army have all been renewed for funding.

Community Works' Transitional Housing Program was awarded $116,015 in grant funds, allowing the organization to continue providing rental assistance and long-term case management to homeless or at-risk youths between the ages of 16 and 22.

"We really try to serve the kids that everybody else has forgotten," said Brooks. "Our goal is to provide long-term case management."

Brooks said the program provides rental assistance and education for about 100 youths during the year, who typically stay anywhere from eight to 12 months. She said a major part of the program is teaching kids life skills, such as how to budget money.

"This is a wonderful gift that we use to help the kids," she said.

RVCOG was awarded $132,297 in grant money for Home At Last, a program that provides housing to the homeless and disabled. Although Home At Last is administered through Disability Advocacy Social Independent Living, or DASIL, RVCOG uses the grant money to reimburse DASIL for the cost of the program.

"We're really proud of this Home At Last project," said Connie Saldaña, RVCOG planner.

Saldaña said in the project's nine-year history, the amount of funding has remained the same, and as a result the program went from helping more than 20 families with rent to now only 15.

Home At Last also funds the Second Chance Renters Rehabilitation class, a six-week program that teaches participants about landlord and tenant law, legal resources, rent, transportation, budgeting and other skills.

The Salvation Army also received a $50,000 HUD grant, allowing it to fund its Life Skills position at the Hope House, a program that also helps the valley's homeless population.

"We essentially help the homeless get back on their feet," said Jackie Agee, development director at the Salvation Army. "We work with them on what their various issues are."

Agee said the Hope House offers a wide range of services depending on an individual's needs, covering everything from drug and alcohol counseling to resumé building, job hunting strategies, budgeting and other life skills.

Although individuals can stay at the Hope House for up to two years, the average length of stay is about nine months, Agee said. Last year the Hope House helped more than 270 people, including 80 who were 17 years old and younger.

Although the Salvation Army is glad to receive the funding, Agee is worried that the future may not be so bright.

"Funding is being cut," Agee said. "And we have to face the reality of that."

"The Salvation Army is very blessed in the sense that we have a large donor base," she said. "But the HUD funding is very important ... $50,000 is a very significant amount of money, and it's not to be taken lightly."

Reach reporting intern Nils Holst at 541-776-4477 or email holstn@sou.edu.

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