November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month and Nov. 16-24 is National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week. We are running a series on the issue of homelessness and what resources are being provided to those in need.
In this first article we highlight the Hinesville Homeless Prevention Program.
The Hinesville Homeless Prevention Program started back in 1999, according to Kristin Bryant, HHPP Assistant Program Director.
Bryant said the goal of the HHPP is to provide emergency services to those who are found to be literally homeless by the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) definition.
The funds HHPP receives are from federal and state grants. Bryant said because of that they must use the HUD definition of homelessness when assessing a client.
HUD defines homelessness as being without a fixed residence.
“As in literally being out on the street,” Bryant said. She said homelessness can also be the result of being forcibly evicted or the person or family is found to be living in a vacated home or a dwelling that is not up to code and inhabitable, or if they are found living in their car.
“Right now if a family or person is living in a hotel and paying the hotel bill they are not considered homeless,” Bryant explained. “Likewise if they are thrown out on the street but are housed by a friend or family they are not considered homeless by HUD standards.”
She said should someone find themselves homeless the first thing they need to do is come to the HHPP office and start their case management intake.
We provide HUD Coordinated entry,” she said. “What that means is that everyone who is considered homeless should come here first. Clients meet with an intake specialist for an assessment and is entered into the HUD data system.
“That will list what they are eligible for statewide,” Bryant said. “Then referrals are made.”
Bryant said once they determine that their client is indeed homeless, the HHPP has grant funds available so they can place people in hotels under the emergency voucher program. She added that when those funds run out they are able to make referrals to the Liberty Regional Homeless Coalition.
The goal of the HHPP is to house folks within 14 days.
The HHPP places clients into homes through their rapid re-housing program. Bryant said the clients work with their caseworkers getting help and counseling on a variety of topics that help them gain or retain employment, build credit, and work on monthly budgets. The clients take ownership in getting themselves back on their feet.
She said the clients use the HHPP’s list of resources, which includes rental apartments and private homes and landlords and client’s pick out their own place.
“They lease it in their name and they pick it out,” she said. “They go and seek it out and we just help with the security deposit and the first month rent and maybe a little bit more depending on the circumstance. This way they take ownership and maybe stay there.”
Bryant said HHPP does offer guidance so that clients don’t pick a home they soon can’t afford and face another eviction.
She said community partnerships through organizations like the Liberty Regional Homeless Coalition, United Way, Manna House and other service oriented charities and non-profits are part of the puzzle in getting help for their clients. They get access to food, temporary shelter, counseling and other resources while they wait to find their home.
Liberty Regional Homeless Coalition Director Jim McIntosh said they are often able to provide temporary housing for some clients when the HHPP is lacking funds for the emergency shelter vouchers.
“But,” he said. “People still have to go to HHPP first to be entered into the HUD data system before we can help them”
Bryant said people also tend to confuse HHPP with the Hinesville Housing Authority.
“They come in here and think we are going to provide them with low-income housing,” she said. “And I have to explain to them we aren’t the HHA and they are going to have to pay market rent. And we may help them but they are going to have to pay for the entire rent.”
She said on rare occasions people seeking housing could pick a HHA unit if there is one available and within their price range.
“The HHA is federally funded and you can’t double-dip,” she warned. “So we could assist them with the security deposit but we can’t help them with first month’s rent.”
The HHPP is located at Hinesville City Hall, 115 E MLK Jr Drive, Hinesville, and open from 8-5 on weekdays.