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Hernando County benefactors help homeless agency qualify for HUD grant

BROOKSVILLE — When it comes to money, amounts are relative. A car that breaks down may be an inconvenience for one family but the financial tipping point for another. Do they fix the car or pay the electric bill?

As the economy has stalled, such personal financial struggles have become more common, especially in Hernando County, where so many paychecks were a result of the housing boom.

It hasn't been easy for the nonprofit organizations that help needy families, either.

This year, the Mid-Florida Homeless Coalition has struggled to raise the dollars to match one if its main sources of funding, a $78,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The HUD grant is earmarked for technology and software so agencies can track the services they provide. Without this new technology, Hernando County will not qualify for an additional $600,000 in stimulus funding.

This year's grant required an initial 25 percent match, about $20,000. The coalition had managed to raise $8,000 and was struggling to find the remaining $12,000.

As the deadline arrived, however, executive director Barbara Wheeler was able to secure the money from a combination of public and private donors.

The benefactors include the Hernando County Association of Realtors, Hernando Progress, and the Hernando County Housing Authority, as well as individuals from across the county. Coalition member organizations Mid Florida Community Services and Jericho Road Ministries also provided donations.

"We were happy to be a part of this public-private enterprise to help," said Marilyn Pearson-Adams, president of the Hernando County Association of Realtors.

The additional $600,000 in stimulus funds, called the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program, is earmarked specifically to keep people who are struggling financially in their homes.

Coalition partner Kids Central was selected last summer to oversee the distribution of the money. Representatives hope to roll out the program in December, Wheeler said.

To qualify for assistance, individuals will need to demonstrate that they would become homeless without the support and that they have a plan for staying in housing. The program also provides a case manager to help ensure that individual recipients are successful.

Renters who suddenly find themselves evicted because of their landlord's foreclosure might qualify for help in finding a new rental.

"Many people don't sit around with money in the bank for first and last month's rent," said Wheeler.

Wheeler said there's a lot of relief after having secured the funding.

But she hopes it won't be so close next time.

"It was too close for comfort," Wheeler said. "But it was exciting to have donations come in from around the county."

Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at

Hernando County benefactors help homeless agency qualify for HUD grant 11/20/09 [Last modified: Friday, November 20, 2009 7:45pm]
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