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Published: Wednesday, 2/16/2005

Toledo: Ex-offenders to get housing aid

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Two community development corporations have won a grant that will provide transitional housing for ex-offenders returning to society.

Organized Neighbors Yielding eXcellence and Neighborhoods In Partnership, who created a Weed and Seed site last year called Toledo West Weed and Seed, have jointly established a program that will address needs of ex-offenders such as living space and job placement, said Deborah Younger, executive director of ONYX.

The organizations will receive the $28,000 grant next week from the national Local Initiatives Support Corporation's Community Safety Initiative to begin work on the program.

The Community Safety Initiative was created to assist community development corporations and other groups dealing with specific community safety issues, said Kathleen Kovacs, a local officer with LISC said. She said the ONYX/NIP application was only one of three local proposals approved nationwide.

"The issue of ex-offenders re-entering communities has really been heating up," Ms. Kovacs said. "They are returning to these neighborhoods without back-up plans in place."

Dealing with ex-offenders has become a hot topic over recent years since people incarcerated during the country's prison explosion in the 1980s and 1990s slowly start to return to the streets.

"Some 90 percent of the people in [local prison] are from the Toledo area and will be coming back to the ONYX and NIP areas," Ms. Younger said. "We need to have an effective plan to help them re-enter society."

She said the ex-offenders meet challenges because their release not only affects them, but their families adjusting to their return. Ms. Younger said the ex-offenders are also some of the toughest to find jobs for, making it difficult for them to start new lives.

She said the LISC grant will help develop transitional housing and programs to address some of those needs.

The UrbaneKnights, a grass-roots organization formed by the First Church of God to assist ex-offenders, will help with job placement services, entrepreneurial training, mentoring and transitional housing.

The organization recently acquired a facility at 501 North Detroit Ave., formerly used to serve HIV/AIDS patients, an ONYX/NIP project proposal stated. That building will be used as transitional housing.

The Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo will provide job readiness and placement training for 10 residents, the program states. ONYX will handle program administration, marketing, outreach and service provision.

Kimberly Johnson, executive director of NIP, said the program and grant provides the service areas of both organizations a strategy that will help ex-offenders and improve their communities.

"This will allow us to do more things and leverage it for other grants as well," Ms. Johnson said.

The grant was the result of the newly developed Weed and Seed partnership between the two CDCs. The Toledo West Weed and Seed Site was approved last August, the first

such site made up of two community development corporations.

Weed and Seed sites are designations established by the U.S. Justice Department for communities to fight crime and develop positive programs.

Contact Clyde Hughes at:

chughes@theblade.com

or 419-724-6095.



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