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Housing authority gets federal grant

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By Calen McKinney

 

The program helps improve their lives.

And with the recent news that the local housing authority got one of only two grants awarded in Kentucky, that program will continue.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced last week that two housing authorities in Kentucky have been awarded $492,000 in grant money.

Campbellsville Housing & Redevelopment Authority and the City of Lebanon each received $246,000.

Campbellsville's housing authority has contracted to manage Lebanon's housing authority since 1998. So that means, in essence, according to Campbellsville Housing & Redevelopment Authority Executive Director David Harris, Campbellsville housing authority actually had a hand in receiving both grants. He said that is something in which the community can be proud.

Nationally, $28 million in grants were awarded to public housing authorities, resident associations, Indian tribes and nonprofit organizations across the nation to hire or keep service coordinators to help public housing residents find jobs and achieve economic and housing independence.

The funding also links the elderly and people with disabilities with supportive services that allow them to maintain independent living.

"These service coordinators will help thousands of public housing residents improve their quality of life by connecting them to jobs and opportunities that lead to self-sufficiency," HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan stated in a news release.

HUD's program, called Resident Opportunities and Self Sufficiency, or ROSS, helps public housing authorities offer programs to educate them, train them to learn new skills and, as Harris says, improve their lives.

Harris said the housing authority has 300 public housing units in Taylor County for low-income families who qualify.

"We're the landlord," he said.

In addition to those housing units, Harris said, residents who qualify can receive vouchers to live in Section 8 housing, which is housing in the private market. The authority provides vouchers to help residents pay rent at those homes. There are currently 274 units that qualify as Section 8 housing.

The housing authority also manages Jackson Tower, which is a high-rise housing complex for elderly people.

In all, Harris said, there are 500 to 600 people in Taylor County who receive assistance from the housing authority.

Opened in 1961, the housing authority in Campbellsville and Lebanon employs about 35 people and is operated with federal HUD funding.

"We're not a federal agency, but we receive federal funding," Harris said.

Tenants also pay rent, based on their income, he said, which generates some revenue for the authority.

Harris said there are waiting lists for the housing authority's units and vouchers for Section 8 housing. Applications can be picked up at the housing authority and staff members can explain the various qualifications.

Of the $246,000 the Campbellsville housing authority will receive, $210,000 will go toward salaries for ROSS officers, $30,000 will go toward administrative costs and the remaining $6,000 will pay for training.

At the housing authority, there are three ROSS employees, two full-time staff members, Kathleen Fletcher and Kaye Hunt, and a part-time employee, Lee Fisher, who receives public housing assistance.

As part of the ROSS program, the housing authority offers case management, health and nutrition classes, technology education, access to GED classes, job readiness training, youth programs, financial management courses, life skills and parenting classes and much more.

To provide those services, the housing authority coordinates with various agencies in the community.

The housing authority works with Campbellsville Police, Taylor County Extension Office, the Adult Learning Center, Campbellsville University, Taylor County Health Department, Adanta Clinical Services, Taylor County Senior Center and many more.

To receive the grant, the housing authority completed a lengthy application that spells out the specific classes and programs their community partners will provide as in-kind contributions. The in-kind match is required.

For the housing authority's application staff members submitted in February, the in-kind donations from local agencies total $260,845, which is more than the $246,000 grant. The in-kind match must be at least 25 percent of the total grant to qualify.

Those who complete the application and meet all the requirements are essentially put into a lottery system, Janean Hall, director of grants management and in-house counsel at Campbellsville housing, said, and winners are selected randomly. So it was completely by chance, she said, that Campbellsville and Lebanon both received the grants this year.

"Several others didn't get the grant," she said. "We're feeling really blessed about this."

The process to apply for the ROSS grant, Hall said, is arduous.

Linda Sneed, grants and ROSS coordinator for the Campbellsville and Lebanon housing authorities, said the program helps link those who are receiving housing assistance with services they need.

Those services can help them improve their lives, Hall said, and eventually get them living without government assistance, which is the goal.

Sneed said ROSS grants are awarded for a three-year period. Campbellsville housing received the grant in 2011 and is now in its third year of that grant. If the housing authority hadn't received the grant this year, the ROSS program couldn't have continued, she said.

"And our residents would have lost a wonderful service," Hall said.

Sneed said not only were the housing authority staff members excited to receive the ROSS grant again, so were the residents.

With the federal government in a partially shutdown state, Hall said, it's not clear when the housing authority will begin to receive the grant money. She said the current grant ends next June, so staff members believe the program won't suffer because of the shutdown. Hall said ROSS grants are guaranteed, so there is no way the government could take it away.

During the past 10 years, Hall said, the housing authority has received about $2.5 million in federal grants to operate.

There are 36 housing authority residents participating in the ROSS program now, Sneed said. Since it began in 2011, she said, about 100 have participated. The ROSS programs are only available to housing authority residents.

Most programs are at the authority's community center on Ravine Way. Programs are also at a center on Ray Street, at the adult education center and other locations.

Hall said the ROSS classes give residents a sense of community with each other and can help them get better jobs. And that can improve their sense of self worth.

"Improve their quality of life," Sneed said.

The programs help elderly residents, such as those who live at Jackson Tower, meet new people and have activities to look forward to.

"It also serves a welfare check on them, too," Sneed said.

Harris said the ROSS program also helps residents see the housing staff members as more than the people who work in an office. He said that relationship can be adversarial at times, and the ROSS program helps combat that.

Overall, Harris said, the ROSS program aims to help residents better themselves. And that's ultimately the housing authority's goal as well.

"It's just life improvement," he said.

For more information about the housing authority and the ROSS program, visit www.cvillehousingonline.com.