For the first time after 10 months of sleeping in a tent, Paula Daniel got a chance to sleep in a hotel bed.
She said she remembers waking up sore the next morning, her muscles tensing up because she wasn’t used to sleeping on something soft. Soon, Ninth District Opportunity, a community action nonprofit, hopes to have Daniel in an apartment of her own.
More than six weeks ago, the agency signed contracts through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act for funding through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The agency’s housing/program manager, Michael Fisher, said the agency has been bringing food to Daniel and others weekly while moving some people into hotels and motels.
“We’re trying to do our part to make sure that the suffering is minimized in this community,” he said.
The funding was intended to help people with eviction prevention and street outreach to the homeless population.
Though there weren’t exact numbers showing direct relation between CARES Act funding to services rendered, Fisher said they served 28 different households with eviction prevention in August and 26 people with rehousing across their 14-county area that includes Hall County.
This month, Fisher said they have moved seven people into motels and hotels. The agency is hoping to get six people moved out of hotels and motel into full-time housing over the next two weeks. Fisher said a heap of credit goes to the agency’s community services director, Brenda Dalin, who has allowed the programs to run smoothly.
Daniel, who is on disability, was advised by her behavioral therapist to contact Ninth District Opportunity about its street outreach program.
“Every time it rains, everything she owned got drenched,” Fisher said.
Daniel has been in a hotel for a couple of weeks and hope to move her into an apartment in the coming days.
“We’ve got a lot of referrals and agencies up there … that’s going to step in and do some amazing things to help her while she’s starting this next transition of her life,” Fisher said. “This is the kind of people we’re running into a lot of, these people (who) are disabled, unable to take care of themselves, unable to provide for themselves.”
Ninth District Opportunity helps with the deposits for utilities and rent while trying to remove some “barriers” in their lives, such as lacking child care or transportation access.
“We’re going to help them with their rent payments for a little bit, get them started and then we’re going to start some active case management day one trying to get them so they have some skills,” Fisher said.
They will also help them get disability if they are eligible, which gives them an income source to regain some independence, Fisher said.
“A job is not necessarily something we require them to have day one when they come to us, but it’s something we’re going to start working toward day two,” said Fisher, as they will direct them to WorkSource Georgia and Goodwill for opportunities.
One of the first things a person might notice when seeing Daniel is a spider-web tattoo on her cheek. Daniel said she believes people have judged her “before they ever got to know me.”
“Then when they found out I was homeless, I could go in a store and they would like follow me, make sure I wasn’t stealing anything,” she said.
The tattoo happened in a darker time of her life marked by addiction, Daniel said.
“I used to hate the fact that I did it, but now when I look at it, I think about how far I’ve come from there,” she said.
When asked what advice she would give to people in similar situations, she said to not give up because they “can’t keep you down forever.”
“A lot of people are homeless now, especially with this COVID-19, and they just need to look for services,” she said.
Fisher said he also found a family of six in Rabun County who lost their jobs and home because of COVID-19. They used their stimulus money to buy a tent. The family was moved into a hotel before being referred to a partner agency.
“Those stories are happening. They don’t have any other place to go,” Fisher said.