New grant money will extend the services one Gainesville organization can provide for those who are homeless and have a disability.
Gainesville’s Supported Living Program, operated through Avita Community Partners, gives rental assistance to eligible homeless individuals. Program participants may be dealing with substance abuse, mental illness or developmental disabilities.
In Gainesville, the program supports 50 residents at two apartment complexes.
But with new grant money — nearly $450,000 over five years — the program could provide more housing units, which is good news for those who have been on the program’s waiting list for more than a year.
“They’re not able to maintain a residence on their own without some level of support,” said Michelle Thompson, residential services supervisor for the program. “And we provide that support for them.”
Participants are referred to the program from agencies throughout the state including homeless shelters, hospitals, domestic violence agencies and food pantries, Thompson said.
The funding is part of the Shelter Plus Care grant program, which comes through the U.S. Housing and Urban Development department.
Thompson said the program has received federal funding for several years, but the new grant money will allow it to serve between 18 and 24 more people.
“We looked at our waiting list and recognized a need to expand,” Thompson said. “So we decided to expand.”
She said the grant will allow the program to become more specialized, separating participants into apartment complexes that could cater to their specific needs.
“If their primary diagnosis is substance abuse, then we really want to be able to focus on the substance abuse,” Thompson said. “It’s important to ensure that you’re providing the best treatment possible to meet the individual needs of the people that we serve through our program and through Avita.”
She said the program teaches life skills and often provides advocacy services, and for Thompson, it’s a way to make Hall County a better community by helping its citizens directly.
“They would end up homeless because they’re not able to pay their rent,” she said. “They would end up in a cycle of eviction after eviction after eviction, and they would end up back in the hospital or on the street.”
But Thompson said the program helps break that cycle.
“They have the skills in place so that they know how to get an apartment and what it takes to maintain that apartment as well,” she said. “We’re really excited to have (the grant), and we’re really excited about the opportunities that it will give us.”