Cass Commission earmarks $68,000 for shelter

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS -- Cass County commissioners on Thursday approved a 2004-2005 emergency shelter grant for $38,600 and a continuation of $30,000 for the Rural Homeless Initiative (RHI) program.
The $38,600 awarded in the renewal includes $26,100 for the tri-county Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency of Benton Harbor, $5,000 for the Domestic Assault Shelter Coalition of Three Rivers and $7,500 for Woodlands Community Mental Health for Continuum of Care coordination by Ruth Andrews, who also represented DASC Executive Director Patricia Hillmann.
Andrews told the Board of Commissioners she was "delighted and actually surprised" that the number of homeless and precariously housed in the county declined 19 percent to 174 in the fourth annual count reported in December, "but we still don't have enough resources to serve all of those."
Ninety-three adults and 81 children were identified; 105 families and 25 individuals, including four high school students, were homeless. Thirty-five percent of the adults were employed.
SMCAA Deputy Director Judith A. Peterson writes the overall emergency shelter grant. Then, programs funded by the large grant write individual grants.
The Rural Homeless Initiative resulted from the awarding of a grant through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) specifically for a Cass County homeless shelter.
According to RHI's report, 20 people have been sheltered in Cassopolis.
In addition, through the emergency shelter grant commissioners gave their blessing to, "We have been able to put people up in a motel until we can find them another facility. That's quite often a one- or two-night situation, but it gets them out of cars in weather like this.
We have also been able to place people in the Decatur shelter," just across the county line into Van Buren County. "As soon as we can, we move them back into Cass County," she said. "We prefer to have people stay in their own community, obviously."
Peterson said the emergency shelter grant "allows us to do several things. It pays utility bills for people who have shut-off notices. It also provides funds for evictions and foreclosures. I want to tell you a little story about a recent success with funds coming from this emergency shelter grant, working with people here at the Council on Aging.

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