Guardian Shelter gets grant

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 21, 2002

NATCHEZ &045; Women who escape with their children from abusive homes must often do so on a moment’s notice, and many times with only the clothes on their backs.

Hundreds of those people turn in their time of need to Catholic Charities’ Guardian Shelter, which gives them an emergency place to stay for up to 30 days.

But after that, many need additional help to start their lives over again &045; housing, food assistance, child care, support groups and transportation, to name just a few needs.

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The shelter’s supportive services program provides such help, but it is totally funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

That’s why the organization’s leaders are so relieved that the City of Natchez received a $937,666 HUD grant to fund the supportive services program from July 2003, when the current grant expires, to July 2006.

&uot;Without this funding, we wouldn’t be able to provide these services,&uot; said Sue Ann Brown, executive director of the Guardian Shelter.

It isn’t the first time the city has taken a leading role in funding such programs.

Since 1996, the city has applied for and received almost $3 million for programs at Oak Towers, where the Guardian Shelter is located, said James Johnston, the city’s community development director.

A 25-percent match for the grant is funded by the United Way and proceeds from the Guardian Shelter’s thrift shop.

Each year, more than 20 and sometimes as many as 50 families receive supportive services, which they can receive for up to six months, said Martha Mitternight, executive director of Catholic Charities.

The women and their children move out of the shelter itself after 30 days, but can still stay in apartments at Oak Towers.

During that six months, women are assisted with finding employment and enrolling their children in child care or school so they can live independently.

The women are required to attend support groups, and parenting classes are also available. The grant also provides such things as transportation and food and utility assistance.

&uot;This money allows us to follow them for another six months and continue to provide services to them so we’re sure they’re getting stabilized,&uot; Mitternight said. &uot;It’s like a breathing period for them to get their feet on the ground.&uot;

Without Catholic Charities and the Guardian Shelter, such services would not be available from one source.

Instead, Brown said she would have to piece together what services she could by calling on local churches and other organizations.

Mitternight gives the credit for funding the program to the City of Natchez and Johnston in particular.

&uot;James’ work on the grant is a very important part of being able to pull that money into Natchez,&uot; she said. &uot;He’s worked very hard.&uot;