[Hpn] Southbridge organization places 11 homeless people

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Sat, 6 Nov 2004 08:59:57 -0500


Forwarded From: Jodi Wright  riteoh@aol.com

 November 05. 2004

 Southbridge organization places 11 homeless people

 John Dignam
jdignam@telegram.com

 SOUTHBRIDGE—  The Southbridge Interfaith Hospitality Network, which 
normally deals only with families, placed four homeless individuals in 
addition to two homeless families in apartments this week.

 The network found housing for 11 people by using vouchers from a federal 
Housing and Urban Development pilot program.

 Network Director Margie S. Ducharme said the 11 people - two families of 
single mothers and children and four individual adults - got apartments 
Monday though a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development pilot 
program. The program targets homeless people with disabilities, with support 
services provided by other sources.

 Ms. Ducharme said SIHN would provide case management services for the 
recipients.

 The vouchers were awarded to SIHN through about $3.6 million in Continuum 
of Care grants awarded to Worcester last spring. The grants provide 
permanent and transitional housing for the homeless.

 The local network, organized in June 2001, provides temporary housing for 
homeless families using a dozen area churches and an estimated 700 
volunteers. The network also provides transportation and assistance in 
connecting to schools, day care, jobs, training and benefits.

 Each church provides food and shelter for one-week periods. Families stay 
in the program an average of four months before being moved into permanent 
housing. The program helps the families learn money management and set aside 
money for down payments on apartments.

 Ms. Ducharme said the two families, which included a total of five 
children, had gone through the network program and were awaiting apartments, 
when two three-bedroom vouchers became available through the federal 
program.

 Ms. Ducharme said the four adults who received the federal vouchers were 
not housed by the network, which does not accept homeless individuals.

 The vouchers cover the rent, and recipients then pay 30 percent of whatever 
income they may have to the organization through which they got the voucher 
to cover case management services.

 Ms. Ducharme, a homeless outreach worker in New Hampshire and on the 
streets of Boston and New York City before coming here in 2001, said she has 
helped homeless people in this area until they could find housing, bringing 
them items such as sleeping bags.

 "I can finally offer them something," she said of the vouchers.

 She has said the homeless have a tougher time in rural areas such as 
southern Worcester County because of the lack of services, including 
shelters. Ms. Ducharme said she identified 33 sites last year in Webster and 
Dudley where homeless people were living. She said Southbridge probably has 
a greater number of such sites.

 The homeless people who received the federal vouchers included two elderly 
women. One was living in a camper without heat in the woods and another was 
living in an abandoned building, according to Ms. Ducharme. The others were 
living at campsites in the woods and in abandoned buildings.

 Ms. Ducharme said the network is also asking for help from area churches 
for its mission. She said the buildings of two of the participating churches 
cannot be used to house families, although the church congregations provide 
volunteers to the program.

 Because of the shortage of space, she said, the network is looking for 
places to house families during Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks. She said 
the network, which serves a maximum of 18 people at a time, is almost always 
at capacity. She said that on the day the two families moved to apartments, 
she received three calls from homeless families seeking help.



Ms.  Marge S. Ducharme may be reached at e-mail address:
lifeishort124@aol.com