By JESSICA WETZLER
Daily News-Record 1/25/20
For the fourth year in a row, Mercy House has been awarded the Virginia Housing Trust Fund Homeless Reduction Grant for its efforts to provide food, clothes and shelter to homeless families with dependent children in the area.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday that 25 affordable housing and homeless reduction projects across Virginia would receive nearly $12 million in funding to increase access to affordable housing, reduce homelessness and provide permanent supportive housing options to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The funding includes more than $10.7 million in Affordable and Special Needs Housing loans and more than $1.2 million in Homeless Reduction Grants that are funded through the Virginia Housing Trust Fund.
Mercy House was awarded the maximum grant of $100,000.
“It is great news,” said Shannon Porter, executive director of Mercy House. “We have not fully expended last year’s grant, but we were able to help 54 households so far.”
Established in 1988, Mercy House serves Harrisonburg and Winchester, as well as the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Warren.
In 2008, Mercy House started combating poverty and homelessness in the community through its rapid rehousing program. The program provides those who are homeless with a living facility and a chance to get re-familiarized with “normal life.”
Porter said in a previous interview with the Daily News-Record that the grant
they received in 2018 went toward helping 150 families who were homeless get back into permanent housing. “We don’t just serve Mercy House people; we serve the homeless community,” Porter said. Through Mercy House’s program, families are placed into market-rate housing with the focus on getting them back on their feet. While holding a job is not a requirement, Porter said some sort of income is needed to sustain the housing.
“There is a real need in the community for this type of assistance and it leaves a real impact,” Porter said. “I believe very strongly that the Department of Housing and the governor trusts us as a valuable partner.”
Funding toward the Virginia Housing Trust Fund has been increasing over the years, with $2.2 million awarded in 2019, making an increase of nearly $10 million in 2020.
“Housing is the foundation for building vibrant communities and creating equal access to economic opportunity across our Commonwealth,” Northam said in a press release. “Every time I meet with housing service providers and individuals who have overcome home-lessness, I am given hope that with the right investments, we can effectively address homelessness, reduce housing instability, and provide more Virginians with safe and affordable living options.”
Northam also announced Thursday that his proposed biennial budget would include $63 million in the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, bringing the total amount to $84 million over three years.