County Helping Globe Group Provide Low-Cost Housing

Officials say program could form a model for northern Gila County as well

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Gila County will help a Globe group seek grant support to expand its emergency housing program.

The GILA (General Interim Living Assistance) House program provides interim housing for families displaced by fires, eviction due to their landlords going into foreclosure and similar difficulties.

Although the leading northern Gila County provider of low-cost housing proved ineligible for the grant program, county officials have offered to help any other north county agencies set up the same sort of program.

At its July 17 meeting, the Gila County Board of Supervisors approved a request to submit an application for a $300,000 Community Development Block Grant State Special Project to help the GILA House program buy and refurbish a three-unit apartment complex for families in need of emergency housing.

The Rev. Bill Norton, a member of the GILA House board, shared the history of the program in a phone interview with the Roundup.

The founding concept of the program is attributed to Russ and Liz Fetterman. The Fettermans spearheaded the formation of a board with representatives from advocacy groups, the religious community, local government and others. They researched the emergency housing programs of the United Methodist Outreach Ministries in the Valley and Tucson Metropolitan Ministry Family Services. The GILA House program has been modeled after these groups.

“They both started small, like us, and were very helpful,” Norton said. The two groups grew to include not only emergency shelter offered from 90 to 180 days, but transitional housing as well, which can be used by clients for up to two years.

With that research, the group “hit the ground running” in January 2010.

Local businessman Rick Barela came forward with a turnkey home for the group. Within a couple of days of getting the home for the program, GILA House had its first client, a man and his family who had lost their home in a fire.

The program requires needs assessment, a drug check and a criminal background check of all applicants, Norton said. If people refuse the drug screening and background check, they are referred to other service providers. So are people with mental health or other issues.

Since it started in January 2010, the GILA House program has helped a dozen families get back on their feet and into permanent housing. These have been mostly healthy families who are going through a difficult time.

The program is not just about getting a roof over a client’s head. A case manager is appointed to the family to help find and apply for other resources that may be available. “There are a lot of resources out there, but knowing where they are is sometimes a challenge,” Norton said.

Help is also provided for such things as learning to budget; learning to shop for and prepare healthy meals; making online job applications; providing babysitting and after-school services for children in the family while parents are working; vouchers for transportation if needed; and more.

The placement also provides people with an address and phone number, a big boon when it comes to finding work, Norton said. Clients can stay in the GILA House for up to 90 days or until they are back on their feet, Norton said.

Church groups, businesses, the mines and the county have all supported the program as well.

Malissa Buzan, community action/housing services manager for Gila County, said the county has never applied for these grant funds previously. “It’s highly competitive,” Buzan said.

She said the Payson Area Habitat for Humanity requested CDBG assistance with its Longhorn Road townhouse project in the past, but proved ineligible.

Both Norton and Buzan talked about the need for family emergency housing throughout the county.

Norton said GILA House officials are in the talking stages of trying to take the program countywide.

Buzan said the most recent needs assessment made by her office showed at least 50 families in the county could benefit from a program like GILA House. She said if northern Gila County groups want to apply for a grant like the one the GILA House program is seeking, she would help them through the process.

Norton said he or another member of the GILA House board would also be willing to discuss the program to help other groups launch something similar. He said anyone interested in learning about it could contact him at (928) 200-4765.

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