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ILS grant to prevent homelessness

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Indiana Legal Services has received its first grant from the Homeless Prevention & Rapid Re-Housing Program, part of Title XII of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, said Norman Metzger, ILS' executive director.

United Way of Central Indiana, which allocated approximately $6 million in stimulus money to 20 organizations, awarded the $100,000 grant to the Indianapolis office. ILS had requested $430,000 and will revise the grant budget accordingly.

"Landlord-tenant eviction cases, hearings before the housing authority for people who could (be evicted from) public housing, hearings for township trustee relief for rent vouchers, and probably consumer-related issues" are among the types of cases Metzger said the money would go toward.

While the money is not meant for mortgage foreclosure defense cases, the money could be used on cases where tenants may become homeless if their landlords are in foreclosure for rental properties, said Ron Gyure, resource development director for ILS.

Statewide in 2008 ILS handled 1,037 housing cases, Metzger said. Of those, more than half were what ILS considered to be private landlord-tenant cases.

The Indianapolis office projected they would have 75 landlord-tenant cases for 2008, but ultimately handled 110, Gyure added.

Of the central Indiana grantees, which received a total of approximately $6 million, ILS was the only legal services agency.

While ILS has been reaching out to community organizations such as one of the grantees, Horizon House, for at least the last 20 years, Metzger said, the grant will encourage other agencies to refer clients to ILS when they have legal issues.

Gyure said ILS is in negotiations for additional grants from the $16 million in HPRP funds that were allocated to the state of Indiana to be distributed through continuums of care (United Way of Central Indiana is the continuum of care for Indianapolis).

"There's been a need in the last four to six months of people experiencing homelessness for the first time, or experiencing the threat of homelessness for the first time," said Stephen Byers, managing attorney of ILS' Indianapolis office. "People are at the point where they need to do something. The money couldn't have come at a better time."

So far, Metzger said ILS has received a letter announcing the grant, but ILS has not yet signed a contract. Grantees have been told they will be able to access the funds starting Oct. 1 to reimburse expenses, he added.

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