Stimulus funds benefit Tier housing initiatives - Catholic Courier

Stimulus funds benefit Tier housing initiatives

ELMIRA — New federal stimulus funds for Southern Tier residents struggling with rent and utility bills couldn’t have arrived soon enough, according to Catholic Charities officials.

Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler has enhanced its Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) based on two grants totaling more than $1.2 million. Funds originated from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009, in conjunction with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA). Bridget Steed, executive director of Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler, said Catholic Charities began distributing funds in November 2009 and will do so over a two-year period.

HPRP provides aid to individuals and families who are homeless or would be at risk of homelessness without financial help. Working through case managers, residents are able to pay their debtors in such areas as rent, security deposits and utilities. Other HPRP benefits include housing relocation services and referrals for ongoing assistance so residents can remain stable after their temporary assistance ends. The program does not cover such areas of consumer debt as mortgage, construction or renovation, credit-card bills, car repair or other transportation costs. Steed noted that additional divisions of Chemung/Schuyler Catholic Charities, such as First Time Homebuyers Program/Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Services, are available to address those needs.

Steed said the federal funding will help greatly toward "keeping people where they live, instead of bottoming out." She added that this type of financial support is becoming more and more necessary as a growing amount of Elmira-area residents become victim to increasing health-care costs, unemployment due to workplace downsizing and the like.

"When we look at the cost of living against what’s coming in, the disparity is overwhelming," Steed said.

Steed further noted that the federal funds will strengthen the overall local economy because most of the money ends up with area landlords and utility companies.

"Seventy percent of that will go right into the pocket of the community," she said.

Catholic Charities is serving as the lead agency in Chemung County for distribution of the stimulus funding. In addition, similar federal money has been made available to Catholic Charities agencies in Steuben and Tompkins counties. The local Department of Social Services is the lead agency for distribution in both those regions.

Out of a $2.4 million stimulus grant to Tompkins County, Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga has already distributed more than $300,000 to 238 families to use toward rental arrears, according to Christine Sanchirico, executive director.

"We are very pleased that we were able to provide assistance to so many families who otherwise may have been evicted from their homes. Stable housing is very essential for children, especially, who need to remain in their schools and have the security of a place to call home," Sanchirico observed.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program or other housing-related services, contact Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler at 215 E. Church St., Elmira; call 607-734-9784; or visit www.cs-cc.org.

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