Butler County OKs $600K to aid homeless, poor

Butler County commissioners have authorized $628,620 this year for programs that help the homeless, poor and other people needing assistance.

This week the commissioners signed off on two of three Shelter Plus Care grants totalling $341,614 — funds that come through the federal Housing and Urban Development agency — and a third grant is expected in December for $151,762.

The money pays for housing help for 70 people, most of whom suffer from mental illness. The majority have been with program since its inception eight years ago, because the goal of the program is to provide permanent housing, according to Mindy Muller, president and CEO of Community Development Professionals, the agency that administers the grants.

“It’s meeting the need of the most vulnerable homeless population,” she said. “I love this program. I’m not a huge proponent of government programs, but this one really does do what it’s supposed to.”

The program pays for 70 percent of the rent and treatment.

Muller said the number — HUD requires an inventory — of homeless people counted in January was 133 as opposed to 257 last year. Muller said there are fewer homeless now but the count conducted this year was not as thorough as in previous years, and she is not sure why that might be.

Kathy Becker, Butler County homeless advocate for Transitional Living, said it is disturbing that they are seeing a larger number of elderly people on the streets and noted the 18 to 22 population is still large. She said the grants are a big help for a huge problem.

“I credit Butler County, the commissioners, because a lot of places are being very anti the idea of these grants because if you have it, they will come,” she said. “But the commissioners of Butler County look at this and say how can we help the citizens of Butler County.”

Other housing related grant recipients include:

  • $20,000 for the Home Repair Program administered by SELF;
  • $50,000 for the Emergency Home Repair Program administered by People Working Cooperatively;
  • $30,244 for the Down Payment Assistance Program, administered Neighborhood Housing Services of Hamilton
  • $10,000 for the Holding Hands Food Pantry
  • $25,000 for the new BCRTA Job Connector

When the commissioners were doling out Community Development Block Grant funds earlier this year, the regional transit authority and several large employers came looking for money for the jobs connector. The commissioners supported the idea.

“A loop from Hamilton through Fairfield Twp. and West Chester (was) specifically set up to allow transportation to many jobs along the route,”said Desmond Maaytah, community development manager. “Surveys have shown that reliable transportation has been one of the top impediments to people gaining meaningful employment. The goal of this route is to provide access to good paying jobs.”

SELF, which stands for Supports to Encourage Low-income Families, gets money for their home repair program, but far more importantly, they offer help to people so they won’t need government assistance any longer, according to Executive Director Jeffrey Diver.

They have programs that teach construction skills, entrepreneurship — including $5,000 start-up loans — financial literacy and job seeking assistance to name a few. Since 2006, 76 people have obtained “assets” like an education, homes, businesses, cars and savings accounts totalling $2 million with help from SELF programs.

“We really want to get out the word that once a household’s emergencies get under control, there are programs that will help them get ahead,” he said.

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