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MERCER COUNTY Community service requirement for housing is dropped



Published: Tue, January 1, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The program has proved to be unpopular nationwide, the authority's director said.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

SHARON, Pa. -- Welfare recipients who are residents of Mercer County Housing Authority properties will no longer be required to perform eight hours of community service each month.

The authority's board of directors voted Wednesday to suspend the requirement that had been put in place by the U.S. Department of Housing & amp; Urban Development.

Requiring welfare recipients living in public housing to perform community service was a part of a federal welfare reform effort enacted by Congress but HUD has now suspended the program, said L. DeWitt Boosel, executive director of Mercer County Housing Authority.

A new Congressional appropriations bill enacted by Congress prohibits using funds to enforce the requirement, according to information provided by Boosel.

HUD has advised local housing authorities that it has suspended the practice and Boosel suggested Mercer County officially do the same, noting that only about 30 residents met the program requirements anyway.

Here's an exception: The only exception will be for authority residents who move back into the rebuilt Steel City Terrace complex in Farrell, he said.

The authority is using a $9 million federal HOPE VI grant as a major part of the funding for the $28 million project. It involves razing the old 100-unit barracks-style apartment complex and replacing it with more community-oriented apartments in double and triple-unit buildings as well as some free-standing houses.

Because of the heavy federal participation in the project, Boosel said all adult residents who move into the HOPE VI site will be required to provide eight hours of community service each month but that service could be in the form of taking job-training or other educational programs to be offered by the authority.

It could also be volunteer service to churches, government organizations or any number of nonprofit institutions, he said.

The authority is trying to develop HOPE VI into a mixed-income community and the job training and other programs will be of benefit to the residents who live there, Boosel said.

Failure to comply with the requirement could result in eviction, he said.




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