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More first-time homeless seeking help

Hinesville poverty rate is 17.3 percent; U.S. rate is 16

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POSTED: August 10, 2011 9:15 a.m.
Denise Etheridge/

The Hinesville Housing Authority rental office is located at 301 Olive St. off Gen. Screven in Hinesville, across from Bradwell Institute. The authority owns and operates 205 units inside the city’s limits.

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More people are becoming homeless for the first time due to such factors as job loss, catastrophic illness and domestic violence, according to Hinesville Homeless Prevention Program coordinator Daisy Jones. She said the Homeless Prevention Program is doing what it can to assist area residents.

“The economy has consistently been an issue for the last year and a half,” she said. “We have ongoing traffic into our office for assistance. The numbers are increasing.”

Jones said program staffers have not seen a local increase in the chronically homeless. Chronically homeless people are those who have been homeless for more than a year and have been frequently homeless over a period of several years, she explained.

The chronically homeless also are defined as, “a person sleeping in a place that is not meant for human habitation (the streets),” according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“There is more situational homelessness here,” Jones said. “Statistically, most Americans live paycheck to paycheck.”
Many Americans are just one paycheck away from being homeless, she said.

The poverty rate in America was 16 percent in 2010, according to a brochure distributed by HPP. In Hinesville, the poverty rate is 17.3 percent, the program brochure states.

The program comes under the Hinesville Community Development Department. HPP has emergency, supportive and transitional housing programs available. HPP’s supportive housing program has 15 homes — 10 funded by HUD and five by the city, according to Jones.

She said the homeless prevention program’s mission is to help residents become self-sufficient. Program participants learn how to budget wisely and how to save and prepare for financial emergencies, she said. They also learn how to cope with stress, Jones added.

“I see people who live in their cars every day and still come to work,” she said. “They just don’t have the money to get a place to stay.”

HPP often collaborates with the Hinesville Housing Authority to refer people of low to moderate income for permanent housing, Jones said.

“We don’t screen them for the housing authority,” she stressed. “If we feel they can benefit, we send them over. (We) let them know where the public housing office is and they can make their own direct application to the housing authority.”
Jones said the homeless prevention program and housing authority have “a healthy collaboration.”

“They provide the housing they can provide and we provide the temporary housing we can provide,” she said.

The Hinesville Housing Authority manages the public housing program and Section 8 new construction program, according to www.hinesvillehousing.org. Authority programs provide shelter as a rental not to exceed 30 percent of a family’s adjusted gross income, according to the website. 

The housing authority currently operates 205 units of low- to moderate-income housing within Hinesville’s city limits, including Regency Apartments on Sandy Run Drive and subsidized housing on Olive Street, according to Debra Williams, executive director of Hinesville Housing Authority.

“There’s always a demand,” she said. “Right now we don’t have any type of funding (for more units).”

Williams said she has seen a slight increase in demand for subsidized housing and hopes to acquire funding for 20-30 more units. Funding could come from the federal government or as tax credits through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, she said.

“We did try for tax credits a couple of years ago,” Williams said. “Last year we found we were not scoring high enough. We’re not in an area that meets the criteria.”

The authority currently has 301 people on its subsidized-housing waiting list, but only 36 are rated as eligible, Williams said. This means a small group of applicants have met the necessary background checks, completed housing applications and are “ready to go,” Williams explained. The authority has three vacancies for subsidized housing, she said.

For more information about public housing, call 876-6561. For more information about the Homeless Prevention Program, call 876-6573.

 

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