A $460,000 federal housing grant will make it much easier for 40 homeless families to find permanent housing in Lincoln, Mayor Chris Beutler said during a Thursday news conference.

The grant program, aimed at families with children, allows parents to find their own apartment, with rent initially subsidized as the family moves into self-sufficiency.

Four low-income Lincoln families have already found apartments or rental houses through the new program being administered by Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders Counties.

About half the initial 15 families who are already a part of the program are domestic-violence victims, trying to start their lives over, said Lee Heflebower, supportive housing administrator for Community Action. Many of them have jobs or are actively looking for jobs, she said.

In the initial group, there are some single dads and two-parent families, but the majority are single moms.

These parents have high barriers to finding a place to live. Often their credit has been ruined, sometimes by the person who was abusing them. They may have had an eviction in the past, so there are difficulties finding an apartment, she said.

In addition, apartments are expensive. "If you have ever tried to rent an apartment, the rents are higher than many people on entry-level job wages can afford," she said. 

In past programs, families lived in one apartment initially, then had to move to another apartment as they reached self-sufficiency.

But in this program, parents get to choose where they want to live initially and get to choose the amenities, Heflebower said.

“We want children in a place where they can grow and thrive,” she said.

Community Action staffers work with the families for 24 months, helping them rebuild their lives as quickly as possible, said Heflebower. 

Community Action is looking for some local assistance, with donations of cash and housing supplies.

The Housing and Urban Development grant requires a local match of $115,000. The agency needs about $40,000 for that match, said Vi See, executive director.

The transitional housing program can also use donations of household items, from sheets, towels and area rugs to small kitchen appliances.

A full list of potential donation items is available at the Community Action website, communityactionatwork.org.

Almost 16 percent of Lincoln’s population lives in poverty, Beutler said.

“They are us. Our neighbors, our friends, our children’s classmates, and the people who serve us at local retail stores and restaurants,” he said.

One negative life experience, the loss of a job and big medical expenses, puts them at risk of being homeless, he said.

The most-recent single-day homeless count in Lincoln indicated 606 people were homeless that day, including 153 children, he said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

Outbrain