By Joel Hall
U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) recently announced that Clayton County will be receiving $856,410 in federal Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program funding. The money, secured through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will provide short- and medium-term rental assistance to families facing a sudden financial crisis.
"It provides a safety net for people who suddenly, of no account of their own, fall on hard times," Scott said. "It can happen to anybody. It's designed to keep a roof over their heads. If there is a situation where they are thrown out of where they are, they can go to a hotel until they find a place to live."
According to Scott, in addition to helping displaced residents with rental assistance, the funds will also help pay for hotel vouchers, security and utility deposits, utility payments and moving costs. While the funds do not provide assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure, they can be used to rapidly house homeless persons who are likely to remain housed when the assistance runs out, he said.
Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell said the funding is particularly timely, given the county's recent move to condemn the Legacy on Tara apartments on Tara Boulevard in Jonesboro. On Thursday, the county determined the entire apartment complex to be uninhabitable and approximately 40 families were forced to find new housing.
"It's going to be a significant shot in the arm for us, given the current state of affairs in the county with homelessness," Bell said. "Last week, we had to move a number of people out of an apartment complex that certainly wasn't fit for human habitation. It will certainly help those kind of folks who have been dislocated by unfortunate circumstances."
Scott said funding associated with the re-housing program would be good for the county because citizens will benefit directly, rather than indirectly.
"I thought that we have always came up short by not getting direct [stimulus] money in the hands of people," he said. "We have to have a higher sense of urgency. This is an example of how some of the stimulus money can get out."
Bell said he is "waiting on rules from Washington, D.C., as to how to use the money." Once that information is clear, the board of commissioners will decide how the money will be distributed, he said.
"A lot of that money will probably go to the Community Services Authority and [be] distributed by them through their bylaws," Bell said. "A number of the bailout monies that have gone out to banks and other institutions have not been made readily available for our residents. There will be no delay at all [with the re-housing funds] and the money will not have to filter through too many hands in order to get to the citizens."