Stimulus funds to help homeless

WOODSTOCK –The McHenry County Housing Authority is trying to spread the word about a stimulus-funded program aimed at keeping people facing hard times in their homes.

About $727,000 will be disbursed to McHenry County residents through the Homeless Prevention and Rapid-Rehousing Program, community service Director Sue Rose said.

“The program is designed to prevent people from becoming homeless and to get people back into their own home who are homeless,” she said. “It is targeted at people who are about to lose their home due to low income or lack of income.”

Past-due rent, security deposits, first month’s rent and even a full year’s rent can be paid through the program, Rose said.

The funding through the Homeless Prevention and Rapid-Rehousing Program, however, cannot be used for mortgages. To qualify, a household must be at or below 50 percent of the area’s median income. A family of four, for example, must earn $37,700 or less to qualify. Also, applicants must have a need because of something that was beyond their control in order to qualify, Rose said.

“We’re not assisting people who got into the situation due to bad behavior,” she said. “We are assisting families who couldn’t have helped what happened to them – illness, layoffs, being priced out of the rental market.”

Recipients must re-qualify periodically, and the housing authority will work with them to set goals to help alleviate the situation, Rose said. The organization also will help direct them to any other assistance that might be available, such as food stamps and Medicaid.

The Homeless Prevention and Rapid-Rehousing Program has more strict criteria in some ways than other programs, but it is more relaxed in some areas, which helps it reach out to more of the population, Rose said.

“We’re having to turn people away, and it’s heartbreaking to tell someone, ‘We can’t help you with your rent, but come to us when you’re homeless,’ ” Rose said. “This program allows us to help many more people than we were able to before.”

For questions or to set up an appointment with the McHenry County Housing Authority, call 815-338-7752.