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Tough times at Serenity House

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These are interesting days at Serenity House of Clallam County.

 

The nonprofit, which has been serving the homeless and indigent in the county since 1982, is watching with some trepidation as the funding for several of its programs has been halted by the shutdown of the federal government.

 

Kathy Wahto, Serenity’s executive director, said the good news is that while much of Housing and Urban Development is now shut down, HUD officials decided not to suspend funding for homeless programs. “They were worried that people would die without this assistance,” she said.

 

Veterans’ program funding, which Serenity uses to prevent homelessness and to quickly re-house homeless veterans, wasn’t halted, but the funds won’t be available to reimburse the work until the shutdown ends.

 

“It’s a confusing situation and no one knows for sure if the work is really funded securely,” Wahto said.

 

Salary cuts

The six Serenity House VISTA volunteers also are left hanging, with partial payments received recently for September but with no certainty that any more payments will be coming. “And no one at CNCS (Corporation for National and Community Service) is available to answer the phone. They’ve all been furloughed,” Wahto said.

 

She said the VISTA year of service might be ended “if something isn’t resolved soon.” Three of the VISTAs are from outside Clallam County — one from Kent and the other two from the Midwest.

 

Wahto said the many homeless families receiving services and housing are very worried about Head Start being closed entirely. Other family assistance programs are running temporarily, using state funds which eventually will run out. “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food stamps and child care subsidies might all be impacted,” she said.

 

“Across the country, that would impact an enormous number of people, with no real safety net to help people pay rent and save their housing.”

 

Pam Tietz, executive director of the Peninsula Housing Authority, said the USDA Rural Help Self-Development Program currently is unfunded, leaving the home building plans of a number of families in limbo.

 

The program brings together eight to 10 families who work together to build homes for all. The families are willing and able, Tietz said, “But there’s nobody available to close on the loans.”

 

 

Reach Mark Couhig at mcouhig@sequimgazette.com.

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