Commissioners consider shelter funds

Hudack:?‘We want to do it right’

HOLLIDAYSBURG — The Blair County commissioners took several actions Tuesday to improve housing for the needy, including a proposal to help raise funds for a new homeless shelter, the development of a lead abatement effort and the launching of a First Time Homer Buyer Program.

Family Services Inc. announced last May that it is seeking funds to develop a new and expanded Homeless Shelter to replaced the existing facility located in a building near the former Bon Secours Hospital, a property that now is owned by UMPC Altoona.

The director of Blair County’s Human Services Program, James Hudack, told the commissioners that Family Services Inc. has its eye on a property, which it will soon acquire.

The money for the development of the $2.5 million, 35-bed shelter — to have the capacity to accommodate families as well as individuals, and to also include apartments — is to come from many sources, Hudack said.

One of the sources is to be a capital campaign in which the public will be asked for contributions.

Hudack asked, and received, permission from Commissioners Terry Tomassetti and Ted A. Beam, Jr., to use $1,500 from the Blair County Affordable Housing Trust Fund to develop a marketing program to gain public financial support for the project.

The human services director said the effort to find a location for the homeless shelter has been like a roller coaster ride, but, he said, “Finally, we have latched onto a property.”

He credited Lisa Hann, Family Services executive director, with putting together a plan for a new shelter, but he said the effort has involved many people and he called it a “real community effort.”

It has included representatives of the county, the city, the Altoona Blair County Development Corp., local bankers and businesses.

“We want to do it right,” he said, after his explanation to the commissioners as to why a marketing effort is essential.

Hudack also requested $50,000 from the Housing Trust Fund for lead abatement.

The money will be matched by a Lead Hazards Control Grant of $85,750 through the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

The money will be enough to remove the lead from five houses.

The commissioners also agreed to an extra $10,000-per-unit for repairs to the homes, if needed.

Lead in paint can be harmful to children, which is why the program is needed, he said.

Pennsylvania has a great need for such an effort, he said.

The commissioners also agreed to modify its new First-Time Home Buyer program.

This effort, which began in the summer, will provide funds to aid local residents purchasing homes.

The program has only one participant so far, a Penn State nursing student who also has a full-time job.

The county is working with Community Action to institute the program but modifications had to be made because Community Action is not permitted, as a recipient of federal Housing and Community Devel­opment funds, to place liens on homes, Hudack explained.

Hudack said there will be no liens on homes that become part of the program.

The program provides closing costs and down payment assistance to participants who have pre-approval for a fixed-rate mortgage.

The assistance through the program will be a grant, not a loan, according to the approval by the commissioners.

The Affordable Housing Trust Fund began about 18 years ago and is comprised of funds from a surcharge on mortgages and deeds filed in Blair County. It used to be operated by the Blair County’s Redevelopment and Housing Authority but is now under the Blair County Human Services Department.

While the housing efforts discussed Tuesday are not “big programs,” Hudack said, “Are they helping? Yes.”

The commissioners also approved the purchase of new software for the Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff James Ott said the present system in the sheriff’s office will no longer receive service.

The new system will be installed by Telesoft Inc. of York and will cost $44,243.

It will cost the county another $8,848 a year for maintenance, Ott said.

COMMENTS