Fitchburg Shelter Funding Will Help Turn Homeless into Tenants
FITCHBURG -- Our Father’s House has received a $72,000 contract to help homeless individuals across Worcester County find long-term housing by paying the deposit on an apartment of their own.
“If someone’s housed, they’re stable, and it’s all about stability,” said Kevin MacLean, the shelter’s director of homeless services.
The contract, administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, has gone to Our Father’s House in various amounts for several years, MacLean said.
This year, it provides Our Father’s House with funds to cover the cost of the security deposits renters must usually pay before they move into an apartment.
Those down payments -- which routinely come in at a few thousand dollars -- are an impossible expense for many, he said.
“To come up with $2,000 for first, last and security, for someone who’s on Social Security, that’s almost impossible,” he said.
MacLean hopes to pay deposits for up to 50 people this year.
To qualify, individuals must meet the federal definition of homelessness, he said. The program is only available to homeless individuals, not families.
Families seeking similar assistance can contact the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Worcester.
MacLean said recipients are tasked with finding an apartment on their own because the Our Father’s House staff is not paid to administer the HUD contract.
“They have to find the apartment on their own, and that’s only because I don’t have money for the staffing. I can’t be searching, but I can give them recommendations,” said MacLean.
Recipients must be able to get a lease from a landlord, and many landlords require proof that a renter has a sufficient income to pay monthly rent, he said. Finally, they must be a resident of Massachusetts.
If needed, Our Father’s House will also give recipients an additional “shallow subsidy” to cover things like moving expenses, utilities, or part of rent for a few months, according to MacLean.
MacLean said he inspects the apartments to make sure they are safe and habitable, and will check in with recipients every six months.
Recipients will also get help managing their finances using courses by the Montachusett Opportunity Council, according to MacLean.
MacLean stressed the HUD contract isn’t an instant fix to homelessness. The process of finding, and moving into, an apartment could take anywhere from a week to a few months, he said.
But it does alleviate the large financial burden of saving thousands of dollars for a deposit.
“As long as someone will write you a lease, and it’s a legal place to live, I can help,” he said.
Those interested in learning more about the program and seeing whether they qualify can contact Kevin MacLean at 978-855-5184 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Typically, the organization has an entire a year to identify people who qualify for this assistance and to spend the HUD funding, he said.
This year the funding was released late, so Our Father’s House has just four months to dole out $72,000 worth of assistance, according to MacLean.