Continuum of Care wins $1M to aid area homeless

By Josette Keelor

A grant of more than $1 million awarded by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development will help programs for area homeless.

Virginia’s Homeless Solutions Program will distribute $1,024,225 over two years to nine regional agencies partnered through the Western Virginia Continuum of Care, according to a news release from the Continuum of Care.

The nine that applied for funding requested $1,264,204, according to John Nagley, executive director of the AIDS Response Network in Winchester, which also received funding.

The other eight agencies are the Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter in Maurertown, Response Inc. in Woodstock, The Laurel House of Winchester, Choices in Luray and Mercy House, First Step, Valley AIDS Network and the Harrisonburg Redevelopment Housing Authority, all based in Harrisonburg. They plan to use the money for rapid re-housing, shelter and prevention of homelessness.

The funding will be available on a reimbursement basis to agencies during fiscal years 2015 and 2016, the release said.

Some agencies, including AIDS Response Network, have received federal or state funding before, but never as part of the local Continuum of Care, which Nagley said started about two years ago.

“In the past, it was each individual agency competing against everyone for the same pot of funding,” he said.

AIDS Response Effort Inc. received $95,613 for its Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS Funding and $79,114 for rapid re-housing. Valley AIDS network received $64,789.

Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter received $15,838 for shelter funds and $121,740 for prevention. The Laurel Center received $12,678 for shelter funds and $41,759 for rapid re-housing. Response received $22,016 for shelter funds and $13,316 for rapid re-housing.

Mercy House in Harrisonburg received the highest amount: a combined $285,253 for rapid re-housing, shelter and prevention.

The overall goal of the funds, Nagley stressed, is to secure and maintain permanent housing for homeless as quickly as possible.

Covering the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Warren and the cities of Harrisonburg and Winchester, the local continuum formed when the Lord Fairfax and Harrisonburg/Rockingham regions merged two years ago, Nagley said. It’s one of 16 continuums of care representing communities and regions around Virginia, the release said.

Areas falling outside of an established local or regional continuum of care fall under a “balance of state” and are organized into planning areas. All areas may apply for funding through the Homeless Solutions Program, the release said.

The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act, made possible through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act of 2009, “seeks to radically transform the traditional system of delivering homeless services, moving the focus from temporary housing and emergency food and shelter to a coordinated crisis response system concentrated on permanent housing as the solution to homelessness — a model commonly referred to as “Housing First,” according to the release.

The Agency on Housing and Urban Development suggested the two local continuums could receive more funding if combined, Nagley said.

“And consequently, we have.” With about 35 member agencies total, he said, “We really do need to collaborate our services.”

For help from the AIDS Response Network in Winchester, call the centralized number at 540-271-1701.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com