05/15/12 — Grant to help families without homes

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Grant to help families without homes

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 15, 2012 1:46 PM

There are homeless people in Wayne County, says Albert Barron Sr., housing director of Eastpointe Human Services, but there is no stereotype.

"It's not just like you see people pushing a cart down the street or lying in the park," he said. "It's actually people who are sleeping in cars. They might park at Walmart, wherever they can seemingly have it safe. In the morning, they'll get dressed, some are going to a 40-hour workweek."

The economy has forced people into such situations, he said.

"They are vicariously housed, and they're doubling up with friends or families," he said. "It's worse now than previous years because of the economy.

"It's perceived to be in big cities but it's actually here."

Housing the mentally disabled is particularly a problem, he noted, which is why grant funding toward that end is especially needed.

Eastpointe, the local management entity for this region and also the lead agency of the Down East Coalition to Eliminate Homelessness, has previously received Shelter Plus Care Grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. Its first award, for $388,440 in 2007, continues to serve 18 households. A second SPC grant came in 2009, for $435,000 and is currently serving 25 households.

Barron's office recently received word that its latest application was selected for $1 million in funding.

"This one is based on need," he explained. "It can actually be used specifically to assist the homeless in budget permanent housing. It can pay up to the full amount, depending on their calculated income, and we also work to assist them to get stable housing and be self-sustaining."

Candidates for the service are obtained through mental health service agencies working with the homeless individuals, Barron explained.

The goal is to give them a leg-up on turning their situation around and becoming more independent.

In addition to housing, that can also mean steering them toward vocational rehab or returning to school.

"It's a mixture based on the person, his or her needs as well as their aspirations," Barron said. "We have had some people who were living under a bridge or in tents, on the street that have acquired permanent housing, are maintaining, going to school, receiving a certificate, and we have others whom have gotten stabilized, actually worked their way out of our program into another.

"That's what we like to see, those that can go as far as they can."

Changes also continue to be made in the mental health system, such as the pending July 1 merger between Eastpointe and two other LME's, or local management entities, agencies of local government responsible for coordinating and monitoring the provision of services.

Beacon Center currently services Greene, Nash, Wilson and Edgecombe counties and is located in Rocky Mount. In the latest round of HUD grants awarded, it received its first, in the amount of $189,360.

The other LME in the merger, Southeastern Region, located in Lumberton, serves Bladen, Columbus, Robeson and Scotland counties.

As they become one unit, Eastpointe LME-MCO, coverage will increase from eight counties to 12, Barron said.

A new start date for the five-year grant has been approved for August or September, allowing time to complete the merger and get staff in place, Barron said.