Lee County hopes to prevent homelessness before it begins

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FILE: Homeless man holding a sign. Credit: WINK News

Many families are just one paycheck away from being homeless.

From bills to medical issues, it doesn’t take a lot for someone to be unable to pay for housing.

Lee County applied for a grant for more than a $500 thousand to help the homeless. The difference is they want to focusing on prevention helping people at risk of becoming homeless before they actually are.

County leaders know it’s a widespread and mostly hidden problem.

Janet Bartos, with the homeless coalition says Lee County has nearly 3,000 people without a permanent home already.

“People become homeless for a variety of reasons,” Bartos said. “For most its temporary. It’s overcome by finding a job regaining your health finding an affordable place to live.”

They county hopes the federal grant will help attack the problem.

The director of Lee County Human and Veteran Services, Roger Mercado, said, “In the fight against homelessness any dollar we can get, either state, federal, or local will help make an impact.”

Mercado says the federal money will fund a three-tier program. Here’s how:

  1. Help those struggling with rent and utilities. The people on the brink of homelessness.
  2. Assist families who live in their cars or in extended stay motels and get them into housing.
  3. Hire outreach workers.

“Kind of boots on the ground out there connecting people and engaging folks about services and opportunities they may have if they no longer want to live on the streets,” Mercado added.

If the county gets the federal grant they hope to get to work on this initiative by July 1.

The Homeless Coalition admits it’s one thing to help the homeless, but that help often falls short because there is a lack of affordable housing.

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