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Clayton housing authority spreads the wealth

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

In order to address the many factors contributing to local homelessness, the Housing Authority of Clayton County recently gave away $70,000 in grants to three local agencies with similar goals.

The Calvary Refuge Center, Clayton County Community Services Authority, and Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity all received funding to support their operational budgets, and various special projects.

Through the authority's Alternative Housing Funding Program, Calvary Refuge Center received $25,000; the community services organization got $25,000, and the local habitat for humanity group was awarded $20,000.

Linda Valentine, the housing authority's executive director, said the funds for the alternative housing program come from excess revenue generated by Premier Gardens Apartments, a low-cost apartment complex operated by the authority's Facilities Holding Company. She said the recent grants were the first alternative housing grants awarded by the housing agency in three years.

"[The year] 2000 was around when we started it," said Valentine. "There were about three years that we didn't do it, but we picked it back up. The entities who receive the funds are entities that don't really have the access we do to the funds ... We want to put that money back into the community," she said. "Their missions are similar to ours."

Tawana Tarno, executive director of Calvary Refuge Center, said the funds will help in several areas, including: basic needs for the center, such as food, electricity, transportation, and staffing; operational costs for its transitional units, and funds to help the group meet matching-fund requirements of a $203,326 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"We rely heavily on our community," said Tarno. "We are the only shelter [in the county] that provides shelter for men, women, and children. It takes more than one kind of donation to support a program of that caliber. We are very grateful that the Housing Authority has helped us meet our needs for 2009," she said.

Charles Grant, Community Services Authority executive director, said the money will help fund repairs not covered by its Weatherization Program, a federally-funded effort to help make low-income homes more affordable and comfortable through insulation and other energy-saving measures.

"Our [emphasis] is an emphasis on energy conservation, and there are some things with weatherization funds we can't do," said Grant. "This funding helps with things like a broken staircase. With these [funds], we can be a little more flexible," he said. "We can fix what needs to be fixed, especially if it's endangering someone."

Steve Teske, president of the Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity organization, said the housing authority grant will help pay for the professionals who test the structural integrity and safety of homes donated to Habitat.

"These houses have been vacant for some time," he said. "We certainly don't want to put people in that house and put them in harm. The money we're getting is allowing us to do our jobs in terms of rehab that requires a professional.

"Without this money, we would probably not do as good of a job accomplishing our goal," said Teske. "The plan [the housing authority has] come up with is a very sensible, practical, and effective plan to deal with the foreclosure problem in our county."