County receives $1.1 million for homeless services

Alexander Sinn • Mar 2, 2019 at 10:30 AM

Collaboration among Ottawa County organizations has helped secure $1.1 million in funding for local homeless services.

Continuum of Care grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will help continue services for rehousing and permanent supportive housing, while funding will also increase services for victims of domestic violence.

Lyn Raymond, director of the Lakeshore Housing Alliance, said the funding could help serve hundreds of people. She said community organizations come together annually to report to HUD on efforts to end homelessness. 

While most of the county’s services are renewed, roughly $55,000 to the Center for Women in Transition will help victims of domestic violence, for whom safe housing is often a major obstacle, according to the center’s executive director, Beth Larsen.

“It might either persuade or dissuade someone from making the decision to leave a violent relationship,” she said. “It’s a very significant barrier in getting families to a safe place in their journey.”

CWIT’s supportive housing program, largely grant-funded, provides rental assistance and other supportive services, including “wrap-around” services for families for up to two years. Therapy for children and help finding employment can accompany rental assistance.

“More times than not, survivors embrace supportive services offered to them,” Larsen said. “Whatever their goals are, they have an advocate walking beside them.”

To target the funding without providing gaps in services, CWIT has focused on helping victims of domestic violence through their first six months, which Larsen said is an important first step for many. Homicides are most common in the early months of someone leaving a domestic violence situation, Larsen explained.

CWIT does not house all of the people it serves, Larsen said, but partners with several area organizations. Community Mental Health and Good Samaritan Ministries also house victims of domestic violence, who are helped with CWIT services.

Raymond said Ottawa County has narrowed the scope of its programming in recent years from a focus on transitional housing to an emphasis on rapid rehousing — a model of providing permanent housing as quickly as possible to people experiencing homelessness. Programming has also focused on helping individuals with disabilities, Raymond said. The grant funding also helps with administrative needs, she added.

“The ability to get renewal programs speaks to how collaborative Ottawa County is,” she said. “We are slowly but surely making progress in ending homelessness.”

In February, HUD awarded more than $2 billion to 5,800 programs throughout the country.

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