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Telamon Corp. comes to aid of families in transition

May 14, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Three-year-old Madison Hite looks with wide, frightened eyes at her brothers, Cody, 7, and Brett, 4, as they don big green alien masks.

"I don't like them," she said.

Madison, her brothers, and 6-year-old sister Amber, live in transitional housing for the homeless offered by the nonprofit organization Telamon Corp. in Martinsburg.

As they all use crayons to draw colorful pictures from their imagination, it seems they are no different from other children.

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"I want to be a cop," Amber said.

"I want to be a fisherman," Cody said.

"I want to be a firefighter," Brett said.

And tiny Madison pipes up, "I want to be a dinosaur."

Their real wish is to have a house. Cody said he wants a pool with a diving board and a trampoline.

Their mother, Melinda Hovermale, 28, and father, R.J. Hite, moved into an apartment in the STEPS housing unit on King Street in Martinsburg in September.

The unit contains six single-family apartments.

Hovermale said the family was staying at another homeless shelter for women and children prior to moving into the apartment.

"They (the children) weren't very happy there," she said, adding that they lived with 40 other people.

Now the girls have their own room and the boys have theirs, Hovermale said.

Before moving into the shelter, the family was living with family members in the area while trying to save money for a place of their own.

Hovermale said by the time they paid half of the rent and utilities and bought necessary items, they had no money left.

"The cost of housing is very high for folks in working-poor, minimum wage ... areas. They can't afford housing in this area," said Karen Hoff, state director for Telamon.

Colleen Strong, transitional family mentor for Telamon, said families are required to pay 30 percent of their eligible income toward rent and utilities, and they can remain in the housing for up to two years.

During their stay, parents take classes on topics such as parenting, financial management and budgeting.

Hovermale said her mother was a nurse and she never wanted for anything growing up, so she never learned how to budget money.

She hopes to participate in the licensed practical nursing program at James Rumsey Technical Institute, while R.J. Hite works for Reese's Landscaping in Charles Town, W.Va.

Hovermale currently works part time as a bartender at a local veterans club.

Hovermale said they are going to open a savings account so they can save money to buy a house.

"It helps people get back on their feet," Hoff said.

Telamon has two programs that help families buy homes. One is a self-help program through which several families help each other build homes and they all move in at the same time. The other is a home loan program.

The waiting list for public housing is six months to a year, Hoff said.

In order to offer programs that help families, Telamon relies on funding from several organizations.

In April, Gov. Bob Wise awarded more than $178,000 to the organization through a community service block grant.

Strong said about 20 percent of that money goes toward the transitional housing program. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also gives the organization money for the program.

Hoff said some of the money will be used by Community Prevention Partnership, which hosts the Rampage Teen Social Club. The club offers activities for middle and high school students.

The club will host dances and activities on weekends through June 29 at the Travelodge off Edwin Miller Boulevard.

For more information, call Community Prevention Partnership at 1-304-264-0944.

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