Allegheny County's homeless programs yesterday received a boost in federal funding, including $839,000 for a pilot program to quickly rehouse families with children.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development received 212 applications for the Rapid Rehousing Program grants, awarding a total of $23.75 million to only 23 communities, said Ann Oliva, director of HUD's homeless assistance office.
The pilot program will help families suddenly homeless, many due to foreclosure or unemployment.
Overall, Allegheny County is slated to receive $14.5 million of $1.6 billion in federal homeless assistance grants unveiled yesterday in Washington -- about $2 million more than it received in 2008.
"There is still so much more need out there, but this certainly helps tremendously," said Marc Cherna, director of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services.
The $14.5 million will help serve 600 individuals through 32 county homeless assistance programs, from shelters to transitional and permanent housing, he said.
At the end of January 2008, there were about 2,130 homeless people in Allegheny County. That figure is expected to increase for 2009.
"It's been pretty stable until this year and it's spiked because of the downturn in the economy," Mr. Cherna said. "It's really the last six months, or even the last quarter of , since the economy started to go downhill, that we've seen an increase."
The $1.6 billion federal homeless package will help more than 6,300 homeless assistance programs -- from street outreach and emergency shelters to transitional and permanent housing -- in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"With the foreclosure and unemployment crisis looming, millions of families -- both homeowners and renters -- are in danger of losing their homes so we must focus substantial resources to help those families find stable housing," U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said yesterday. "The grants being awarded ... will offer a critical lifeline to those persons and families who, after a foreclosure or job loss, might otherwise be faced with homelessness."
This money is in addition to the $1.5 billion in President Barack Obama's stimulus package, signed into law Tuesday, that's slated to help prevent homelessness.
"It certainly is good news," says Richard Rach, executive director of Mercy Behavioral Health, which runs the homeless medical outreach program, Operation Safety Net. "These continuing grants give programs like Operation Safety Net and others the chance to continue their good works in the community."
L.A. Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3903.