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Rehabbed houses help homeless families

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) --- Boosting the housing stock for those most in need.

Winter is an especially bad time of year to be without a place to live.

But a program aimed at putting a dent in Allen County's homeless problem is producing results.

We visited a residence on Gay Street Thursday that will soon serve as a dream home of sorts for a couple thrilled to be moving in around the end of the month.

"I can get a couch now, that's exciting," Samantha said.

"I honestly don't know all the logistics of it, just what I've seen, but it has a full basement, three bedrooms upstairs, dining room, living room.  It's more than what I would expect," said Adam, who is relieved to have a stable living arrangement coming.

Mayor Tom Henry after noon was on hand to snip a ribbon, marking this as one of six homes Vincent Village rehabilitated with federal Housing and Urban Development dollars to rent out to families trying to get back on solid footing.

The city of Fort Wayne played a role in tapping $500,000 in HUD money for the effort that is designed to take local homeless families and move them from area shelters into the rehabbed properties.

They pay reduced rent-- starting out sometimes as low as $150 a month-- rates based on their income levels.

Participants don't just get help with housing, Vincent Village also stands ready with job readiness aid, and transportation and child care, things that can trigger homelessness.

"A lot of our families, shortly after moving in, could get reduced hours, they lost their babysitter, we've had people that their (car) battery is dead and they don't have $100, so they lose their job and here starts the cycle of eviction," said Denise Andorfer, the executive director of Vincent Village.

Besides the refurbished home on Gay Street, there are three others on Holton Avenue and two on Reed Street being prepared for rent.

One home in the 2700 block of Lillie Street will be demolished and re-built, then offered to new tenants.

Organizers of the program say the people they're helping oftentimes don't fit the profile we think of as being homeless.

"I think that the stereotype of a homeless person is an older male that lives out on the streets, but the reality is that there are a lot of women and children, or people who are living with someone because if they weren't able to sleep on someone's couch they would be homeless."

Vincent Village now owns 35 single family homes for this purpose, which also helps free up space for other families trying to find room in an emergency shelter. 

Since the late 1980's, Vincent Village has served about 1,300 families in need.

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