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Resource Center set to launch new grant program

Still getting accustomed to its new headquarters in downtown Selma, the Dallas County Family Resource Center (DCFRC) is gearing up to put its recently-secured Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program into action by early February.

This is the second time the center has applied for the grant funds and the first time securing the funds – according to DCFRC Executive Director James Thomas, the roughly 60-page grant application process was a difficult task unto itself.

“A lot of work went into it,” Thomas said. “I felt like I had written a book when it was done.”

Thomas stated that the purpose of the grant – $80,000 over the next 18 months – was to provide a “holistic, comprehensive set of services to alleviate the homelessness issue in Dallas County.”

“It’s not going to completely eradicate homelessness, but it does an awful low to address the needs,” Thomas said. “The fact that we’re a smaller community means that a program like this can have a bigger impact.”

Thomas noted that in larger cities like Montgomery or Birmingham, such modest funding would only be a drop in the bucket – in Selma, however, that money can go a lot further and reach more needy people.

According to Thomas, the program is broken down into four separate sections – street outreach, emergency shelter, homelessness prevention and rehousing.

The street outreach portion of the program will have DCFRC employees and volunteers scattering out across the area to find those people currently living on the street and provide them with access to the services that they need.

The emergency shelter aspect will have the center providing shelter for those in need, which could be some of the people that have been brought in off the street or those who call or visit the center in search of assistance.

Homelessness prevention, the third plank in the program, which is designed to help people not yet homeless but facing the possibility of becoming so, is where Thomas believes much of the DCFRC’s efforts will be directed.

“This is where I think the biggest need in Dallas County is going to be,” Thomas said. “We have a lot of people, due to employment issues [or] income issues, that may end up facing homelessness but not be chronically homeless. I feel like it’s where a majority of our efforts are going to end up going.”

The final component, rehousing, is designed to assist people facing homelessness that are no longer able to stay in their current housing situation – Thomas noted that such issues arise for a variety of reasons, including a domestic violence situation, an eviction, an increase in rent and more.

The funds are allocated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and passed along to the states – in Alabama’s case, the funds are funneled to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) and then passed along the various organizations whose grant proposals were approved.

Despite the funding, Thomas noted that the DCFRC is still going to need support from the community as it seeks to further put a dent in the area’s homelessness problem – according to Thomas, the Alabama Rural Coalition for the Homeless (ARCH), which serves more than 40 of Alabama’s 67 counties, was seeing more than 50 percent of its calls coming in from Dallas County.

“It seems like a lot of money, but when you look at the fact that it’s spread over 18 months and all the different components, it’s not that much money,” Thomas said. “We’re still going to need help from our community partners.”

Thomas specifically noted the practice of providing emergency shelter for those in need by renting a hotel room – with limited funds, the DCFRC will only be able to provide a limited amount of rooms and will have to turn to the community for help.

“That is probably going to be our biggest need,” Thomas said. “We’re really looking for community partners to help us with the emergency shelter component.”

For more information, contact the DCFRC at 334-874-7785.