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HUD grants allow Heartland Community Action Agency to expand programs for homeless families

WILLMAR -- Heartland Community Action received $152,442 in two separate grants from U.S. Housing and Urban Development to provide housing and supportive services to homeless families.

The funding will allow Heartland to expand its existing services to help high-need homeless individuals live independently, said Rhonda Otteson, housing services manager at Heartland's office in Willmar.

"We're excited for the opportunity," said Otteson. "It's a significant investment and we do the best we can to serve our community."

The grants to Heartland, which were announced this week, are part of a $2.6 million allocation HUD awarded to Minnesota for 22 new homeless programs in the state and are in addition to more than $20 million HUD awarded in January to renew funding to 148 existing Minnesota homeless housing and service programs.

The funding will provide "critically needed housing and support services to homeless individuals and families," according to the press release from HUD.

"This funding will make a significant impact in the lives of thousands of people and provide resources to put them on the road of independence," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.

Heartland received a two-year $61,857 grant that will provide permanent housing and supportive services to two households made up of individuals with documented disabilities in a program that serves high-need families. Heartland works with county case managers to provide life-skills training and other supportive service through weekly visits with the families, who also receive rental assistance.

The second grant of $90,585 is being shared with McLeod, Lyon and Jackson counties for a scattered site transitional program for homeless families.

Otteson said the new grants will be a "good start" to meet the needs of homeless individuals in the region.

This is the third year Heartland has received HUD grants for these types of programs, she said.

Based on HUD's latest Annual Homeless Assessment Report, chronic homelessness has declined by 30 percent since 2006, which HUD officials said is directly attributed to the grants that help create more permanent housing for those who might otherwise be living on the streets.

The report also states that the number of homeless families increased for the second consecutive year, almost certainly due to the ongoing effects of the recession, according to the HUD press release.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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