Homelessness prevention funded by stimulus package

By Donna McCollum - bio | email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Gary Spencer just started a new job. His future is looking brighter than what it was beginning six months ago. He was laid off and had a difficult time finding work. The man with an independent nature was close to losing his home. "It crossed my mind. Absolutely, crossed my mind several times," said the 39 year old Nacogdoches man.

Then Love In The Name of Christ's (Love INC), Encourager Program stepped in. It helps prevent homelessness. "If they have been laid off for a season or temporarily, or they have had an illness or an injury and they are being rehabilitated to go back to their jobs and there is some reasonable expectation that they will again resume their income than we can sustain them," Roger Aker, Love INC director explained.

In May, Love INC applied for close to a million dollars in federal stimulus money for its homeless prevention program. The agency learned on Friday it got it. The quickly allocated federal funds are now earmarked to help people in five counties from losing their homes. Four social workers will provide guidance in Nacogdoches, Angelina, Shelby, San Augustine and Sabine counties. The quickly allocated funds will be put right to use. Love INC should have its social workers hired by the end of this week.

"It's innovative. It's ambitious. And I think it will have some good effects," Aker said.

The state of Texas is calling it an unprecedented opportunity. The money is administered through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA).

Rural homelessness looks different from what is found in big cities. Most victims are forced to move in with family or friends. Social workers have a name for it.  "Those are what we call doubling up families," Angela Kirk, Encourage coordinator said.  "Those are the majority of the homeless families we have.  But we do have homeless people living in tents, in abandoned buildings, storage buildings right here where we don't realize it."

The Encourager Program is allowed to help the homeless who are willing to achieve self sustainment. Gary Spencer wouldn't have seen it any other way. "I'm truly grateful," said Spencer.

The Encourager Program will be setting up a toll free number to serve the outlying counties. Until then call 936-564-6444.

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