Housing agencies get county funds

January 17, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Agencies that help low-income residents find decent housing in Franklin County received more than $175,000 in grants Thursday from the county.

The groups receiving the money include a youth work camp that uses teenage volunteers to repair deteriorating homes and a service that sets up homeless families with transitional housing while they undergo counseling and training to become self-sufficient.

The Franklin County Commissioners allocated the funds, which were collected by the Register and Recorder in fees for recording deeds and mortgages in 2002.


State law permits the fee, which the county began levying last year, to establish the Franklin County Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

In 2002, it collected $210,167 for the trust, of which about $31,500 will be used for administration, County Planner Phil Wolgemuth said.

Wolgemuth said four agencies applied for the funds, and all received the majority of their requests:

  • The Franklin County Housing Rehabilitation Program received nearly $60,000 to rehabilitate houses in Mont Alto. The intent is to revitalize older neighborhoods that have had recent sewer and water system improvements.

  • Valley Housing Development Corporation will receive $50,000 to use toward a $3 million project to build 22 rental townhouses that will house low- to moderate-income families in Waynesboro, Pa.

    Valley Housing representative Marilyn Smith said at least 75 percent of the units will be occupied by low-income residents.

  • Financial Counseling Services will use $50,000 for its Total Person Transitional Housing program that helps homeless families with children gain self-sufficiency and obtain permanent housing.

    "Families come in with so much baggage that they need counseling," Financial Counseling Services director Natalie Newcomer said. "They have nothing when they come in to our program. We make them see they can have a better life than homelessness."

  • Reach Ministries Workcamps will use $19,000 for construction supplies to rehabilitate homes owned by low- and moderate-income residents. The nonprofit organization offers work camp experiences for youth groups and expects to repair 40 homes in one week in July.

    "Some of the work, you can't imagine our youth can do that," said Ronda Somers, local coordinator of the Reach program.

The commissioners will award the funds annually.

"We happen to believe this is a good strategy. This is new territory for us," Commissioner G. Warren Elliott said.

Jean Odom, director of the South Central Community Action Programs, which manages the county's rehabilitation program, said the county is headed in the right direction.

"Where I grew up, my house was the poster house for poor housing," she said. "A decent house is the basis for self-esteem. The next thing is to make sure there are good jobs and infrastructure."

Smith agreed.

"This filters down to youth. If they're proud and they can hold their heads up, they will do well in school," she said.

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