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Homelessness prevention program ends; 3,500 people helped

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Theodore A. Treadwell is like thousands of other north country residents who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless — he just needed to catch a break.

The 55-year-old returned to Jefferson County in March 2010 after having been incarcerated in state prison for 17 years. After he was paroled to the Relax Inn, Mr. Treadwell said, he went to the Watertown Urban Mission with barely anything in his pocket, seeking housing assistance.

Having worked there for a short time, Mr. Treadwell was aware the agency was a subcontractor for the Helping Eradicate All Roads to Homelessness, or HEARTH, program. The Jefferson County Department of Social Services in August 2009 was awarded $1.9 million in federal stimulus money for the project, which aims to prevent and reduce homelessness in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

The grant was filtered through to local governments from the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. The program wound to a close in October.

Within a short time of applying for help, Mr. Treadwell went from living in a hotel to a one-bedroom apartment in the Solar Building.

“You can’t find an apartment unless you have a security deposit; you’re beating a dead horse in the head here,” he said. “It was stressful. I was away for 17 years, 17 years of living in a six-by-eight cell, thinking things will get better. It was depressing; everything I needed done takes money and I don’t have it.”

The HEARTH program was able to help him pay first month’s rent and a security deposit.

Since then, Mr. Treadwell has been able to find a better apartment on State Street, and has gotten a job at Chapin Watermatics.

If the HEARTH program hadn’t come along, Mr. Treadwell said, he would have made a living “my way,” which could have led him down the wrong path again.

Urban Mission Executive Director Erika F. Flint said HEARTH staff at the mission worked directly with clients to determine their eligibility in the program.

An added bonus to working through the mission, she said, was being referred to other agency programs such as Critical Needs or the food pantry.

Mr. Treadwell, who never asked for a handout or help before, was one of 3,500 people in 1,568 households who were assisted throughout the 24-month program.

According to a news release from HEARTH Program Manager North Country Management Services, the homeless prevention and rapid-rehousing program worked through Department of Social Services agencies in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, as well as Snow Belt Housing and Massena Independent Living Center.

HEARTH offered assistance with rental costs, utility bills, moving costs, some legal assistance, emergency hotel/motel vouchers and housing location and stabilization services, according to the release.

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