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Groups see need for transitional housing
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Family Promise of Effingham executive director Ashley Moore discusses the communitys need for transitional housing at a recent meeting of the Exchange Club of Effingham County. - photo by Photo by Paul Floeckher

Two organizations dedicated to housing initiatives are hoping to help establish more places for lower-income families to live in Effingham County.

Habitat for Humanity of Effingham County and Family Promise of Effingham are seeking partners to expand the affordable and transitional housing options in the county. The two organizations also are supporting the city of Rincon’s participation in the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing.

“What we’re encountering is that the only official low-income housing is basically the subsidized housing, and there’s a waiting list for that,” said Jimmy Rutland, Habitat of Effingham’s executive director. “So there is nothing set up by anybody in the county, even privately.”

Family Promise helps homeless families find permanent housing and, if need be, employment. Local churches host a family for a week at a time, while the family saves money toward housing and receives training on financial and household management.

However, executive director Ashley Moore said, some families might not be able to transition directly from the Family Promise program to a home of their own. For example, they might need more time to improve their credit.

“Our ultimate goal for the families that come through our program is to not only find housing, but that they can maintain that,” Moore said. “Our program’s not very effective if, six months from now, they’re right back in the same situation.”

Having transitional housing allows families more time to achieve a sustainable income and financial stability, according to Moore. Under Effingham’s model, she said, a family would pay 45 percent of its income toward the transitional unit while continuing to save money, receive life skills training from Family Promise and possibly find a better-paying job.

“They start to understand that percentage: ‘45 percent of my income would go toward housing and utilities, so I can start to budget that out realistically and then see what I could afford,’” Moore said. “The more families we have in our community that are financially stable, the stronger our community will be.”

Rincon United Methodist Church recently made possible the first transitional housing for Family Promise of Effingham. A family of two began renting a two-bedroom house RUMC owns across the street from the church.

The goal now is to bring more community partners on board. Rutland cited the example of an apartment complex in Savannah that, with the help of local sponsors, provides some of its units as transitional housing.

“We could build partnerships like that,” Rutland said, “where somebody who has a regular rental program would be willing to carve out a portion of their rental property that we could use for that and get partners.”

While Habitat for Humanity is a Christian housing ministry, the organization’s focus is on building homes. Habitat can’t rent to someone unless that person will eventually own the home, Rutland said.

“Habitat gets these calls too looking for temporary housing, and we’re not in the temporary housing business,” he said.

Habitat and Family Promise are two of the organizations taking part in the city of Rincon’s Georgia Initiative for Community Housing team. More participants would be welcome, according to city planner LaMeisha Kelly.

The city has completed a housing survey and outlined a plan for housing, beautification and code enforcement efforts, Kelly said. Being part of GICH helps earn Rincon points for community development block grants and other state funding to improve homes and neighborhoods.

“Housing and code enforcement impact economic development,” Kelly said.