The Anson, Richmond, Montgomery and Moore (ARMM) group is set to hold its next meeting July 20 at 9:30 a.m. at Sandhills Community College’s Stone Hall.
At the June meeting, Sandhills Community Action Program Transitional Housing Coordinator Subrina Hough familiarized attendees with a program designed to transition single mothers to permanent housing.
“This is a two-year program for single mothers with children who come in from a homeless situation to receive services to ... empower themselves through educational, job, housing or transportation resources,” Hough explained. “There is a rate component for the program, and that is based on the participant’s income.”
She said there are multi-family homes located in Wadesboro, Rockingham and Pine Bluff that accommodate four to five families apiece, and there are vacancies among the three facilities.
“We are taking references at this time,” Hough said. “Typically when we accept a family into this program, another agency has referred them to us - I.E. the county social services, a domestic violence agency or a local church. We visit that agency to get documentation of the circumstances of the referral, and we meet with the candidate and their family at an off-site, neutral location to see if multi-family housing is the way they want to go.”
She said families in the program share cooking and laundry space with other families, which is not for everyone. It leads some to exit the program early.
“We try to keep a strong referral base, so that we can refer to a waiting list when space opens up,” Hough said.
She speaks from personal experience when she presents information about transitional housing, because she and her older son participated in the program more than 20 years ago.
“I know this works,” Hough said. “From my own personal experience, I know that the resource-building and the strong collaboration base with other agencies - you can make the transition to permanent housing.”
In many instances, the agency attempts to give displaced families the option of moving to another county in the area, depending on the availability of space.
“A change of environment helps these families in a lot of instances,” Hough said. “We try to give our families the option of moving to another county, depending on each individual situation.”
While the transitional housing program has the support of the ARMM, group coordinator Tim Emmert said an upcoming funding request from the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) department will focus on opening a new housing voucher program to address homelessness in the region.
“HUD is really looking for programs that provide permanent housing,” Emmert explained. “Basically, the voucher program would work by qualifying people who are currently receiving services, from say mental health or a domestic violence agency, and they can receive the vouchers for up to five years.”
He said these vouchers are nontransferable, and clients are required to pay less than a third of the cost of housing, depending on funding arrangements.
“This is considered permanent housing by HUD, and are long-term in nature,” Emmert said. “They are also advantageous because you don’t have to build new housing, and it allows you to fill up existing housing.”
The group has already completed a pre-application process and is waiting for HUD to send out a Notice of Funding Availability. This notice is expected sometime in August.
Also at the June meeting, the group heard from North Carolina Weatherization Director Doug Dixon, who told agencies about how to refer clients to apply for this funding.
Grants are available to weatherize 131 homes in Richmond County, which consists of reinforcing insulation and sealing the home against energy loss.
Applications should be made to the Joint Orange and Chatham Community Action Program (JOCCA), which can be reached at (919) 542-4781.
Starting with the July meeting, agencies receiving funds through HUD and the North Carolina Coalition on Homelessness will be required to participate in a continuum of care program - like the ARMM - and show how the money is spent.
Emmert said the only agencies receiving the funds now are the community action programs.
At the July meeting, the Sandhills Mental Health LME is expected to update attendees on the programs and referrals they offer to deal with homelessness.
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at email@example.com.