Chattanooga program offers rent support to residents

Chattanooga program offers rent support to residents

May 24th, 2011 by Yolanda Putman in News

Alecia Robinson, center, and her three children, Ta'leq, Tay'shawn, Du' Quarion Robinson, from left, sit Thursday on what could soon become their home, Robinson's Ford Taurus. The family will have to live in the car if Robinson doesn't receive rental insurance. Staff Photo by Allison Carter/Chattanooga Times Free Press

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IF YOU GO

  • What: Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing workshop

  • When: 1 p.m. Wednesday June 1 and June 8

  • Where: Tennessee Career Center, 5600 Brainerd Road

  • Information: 209-6855

Tiffany Mosely has been jobless for two years, but she's paid her rent on time with funding from the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program.

"It has helped to give me peace of mind, knowing that my son and I aren't going to be put out," said the 32-year-old single mother of a teenage son.

Now city officials are encouraging others who need rental housing assistance to sign up for the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program.

"If they have a work history and were stable prior to the economic downturn, if they have been laid off, they should apply," said Carla Sewell, Hamilton County's community service manager.

Through the program, households can receive rental assistance and rehousing activities that include current rent, utility expenses and back payments; security deposits; storage and moving expenses; hotel and motel vouchers, and case management services costs, said Juliette Thornton, the city's director of community development.

The Hamilton County Social Services Department is the grant administrator of the program. However, the funding comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Chattanooga Neighborhood Services Department, officials said.

Workshops explaining criteria for the program are scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 1 and June 8 at the Tennessee Career Center in the Eastgate Town Center.

The program is for Chattanooga residents only. It assists with rental and utility payments, but not mortgages. Applicants must show that their income has been affected by the economy, city officials said.

Mosely, who holds an associate's degree in business and a bachelor's in psychology, worked in the medical field as a billing specialist for nearly a decade before landing a job as a health service specialist at Cigna Health Care. She worked there one year, then lost her job after taking medical leave for foot surgery in 2009.

This is the longest she's ever been without work.

"Times get a little scary," Mosely said. "I'm just trusting God that he's going to pull me through."

She was in line at the unemployment office when she learned about the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program.

The program paid her rent for five months, and Hamilton County employees with the Social Services Department helped her locate other resources for financial assistance with utilities.

"I was very hesitant to get help. I felt like I was begging," Mosely said. "But this has been a blessing for me."

The program started in October 2009 with $93,177. Since then about $54,588.50 has been spent to assist families, said Thornton.

HUD requires the Hamilton County Social Services Department to spend 60 percent - or $55,906.20 - by August. The program ends in September 2012. Officials say they see no problem in meeting the goal and more funding is not expected.

Alecia Robinson, 20, attended a workshop this month in hopes of being able to afford rental housing for herself and her three children, ages 3, 1 and 8 months. She lost her job at Walmart and got evicted from her apartment.

She lived in a car until a church paid for her to stay in a hotel. That money ran out Friday but her boyfriend's friend paid for rent in a hotel for another week.

Meanwhile, she landed a job at McDonald's. Her goal is to earn enough money to pay for her own housing. Otherwise she'll return to living in her car.

"I just want a roof over our heads," she said, sitting in the workshop with her boys.

Contact Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.