June 22, 2014

Programs to help homeless receive federal grants

Three Sedgwick County homeless assistance programs have been awarded six-figure federal grants.

Three Sedgwick County homeless assistance programs have been awarded six-figure federal grants.

The grants are part of $140 million given by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to about 900 homeless assistance programs across the country. Eight other programs in Kansas received grants, totaling nearly $1.3 million in HUD funding for the state.

Each of the Sedgwick County programs have a “housing-first” focus, providing both permanent and transitional housing to those in critical need.

Dual Diagnosis, a program run by Sedgwick County’s COMCARE mental health center, received $321,469. The program provides housing and therapy for homeless who suffer from both mental illnesses and substance abuse.

This year marks a transition for Dual Diagnosis, which will now offer permanent housing instead of providing temporary housing for up to nine months while recipients receive treatment.

“Our goal is sustainability,” said Shantel Randolph, with COMCARE. “We want people to be as independent as possible.”

Family Rapid Rehousing, a program run by Wichita’s Community Services Department, received $145,439. The program helps the homeless move into permanent housing by paying for rent and utility bills. It also provides assistance to those who face eviction from their homes, often due to sudden unemployment or high healthcare costs.

Recipients of the program are referred to it through a number of charities including Salvation Army, United Methodist Open Door and the Wichita Children’s Home.

The grant amount is $30,000 more than the program received last year, said Mary K. Vaughn, director of housing and community services.

“Many, many people in our community are very close to needing this program,” she said. “We’ll be able to address some of those needs. It’s very encouraging knowing we can step in and help people when they are at critical points.”

Most recipients of the program are victims of domestic violence, and many cases involve families with children, Vaughn said. Recipients of the program’s assistance must have a plan for moving forward, often including further education or job training.

While the program has been running for more than 10 years, it shifted from funding homeless shelters to providing permanent housing only three years ago, she said.

“It makes the most sense,” Vaughn said. “It’s a more permanent solution.”

Bridges, a program run by the Wichita Children’s Home, received $102,574. Bridges assists homeless or disadvantaged youth with transitional and permanent housing.

The program provides living accommodations for youth from ages 18 to 23 and offers services to teach them the necessary skills to live on their own. Program staff often transport recipients to work or college classes.

The grant will allow a group of 12 young-adult parents and six children to continue living in Bridges housing, said Sarah Robinson, the Children’s Home executive director.

“These are homeless kids without anywhere else to go,” she said. “We are so excited.”

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