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Alms House project hits snag

Alliance for Shelter does not qualify for federal funds; renovation delayed

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK -- A funding snag likely will delay efforts to renovate the former Shenandoah County Alms House.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday learned that Alliance for Shelter doesn't qualify for the $250,000 in federal money the organization hoped to receive for its share of the $1 million project. People Inc., the Alliance for Shelter and Shenandoah County have joined efforts to renovate the former poor house off Zion Church Road.

Parties have not received the last piece of the funding puzzle and a deadline to spend all the money allocated looms. The county and People Inc. may need to return the allocations to the funding sources and apply again for the money.

People Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Goldsmith updated the board on the efforts to secure funds for the project. People Inc. secured $250,000; the county applied for and received $500,000 in federal funds through the HOME Consortium of the Northern Shenandoah Valley and Community Development Block Grant program.

However, the parties have applied twice unsuccessfully for the remaining $250,000 from HOME needed for the project, Goldsmith said. Such funds flow from the Department Housing and Urban Development into the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

The next application window comes in January. However, as Goldsmith explained, the federal and state agencies have changed their models of serving homeless people. Goldsmith noted that the Alliance limits how long its clients can receive shelter assistance.

But now the federal and state agencies want to fund permanent supportive housing, similar to transitional housing but without the time limit. The Alliance board has not yet decided whether to modify its operations to conform with that funding source priority.

"Unless they do that, the chance of getting that last piece of funding from the state is extremely slim," Goldsmith said. "We've met with staff at the Department of Housing and Community Development and they've said this is a non-starter unless these changes are made to the program design."

The two-year time limit for using the federal dollars is expiring. Assistant County Administrator Mary Beth Price said the deadline to spend the money is in March 2013.

The Alliance board also needs to make a decision regarding its operations, but its next meeting happens after the January deadline to apply, according to Goldsmith.

"I hate to say this but I think we need to probably face reality and say we're not going to get the renovation done in time to comply with the federal home loan bank requirements," Goldsmith said. "We can't do half of the work with their money and be done. We have to complete the whole job or none of it."

Goldsmith recommended the board turn back the federal home loan money. If the Alliance decides to change its model to comply with the loan requirements, the other parties can reapply for the money they returned, Goldsmith said.

This might put off renovations for about a year.

County Administrator Douglas Walker said he is aware of the limitations of the Alliance's program mission and how it relates to the funding requirements. Walker also explained that matter remains an issue for the supervisors because the county owns the property. The county administration has given the Alliance time to look at the matter but eventually the organization likely would need to talk with the board about the situation.

Supervisor David Ferguson expressed interest in meeting with Alliance representatives to discuss the matter.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com


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