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New Outreach homes

Open house held for 2 transitional homes completed at Outreach

COLUMBUS—Thermal Belt Outreach now has 2 transitional homes available on the property thanks to a partnership between Outreach and the Polk County High School Construction program. 

An open house was held on Thursday to show the new homes. 

The project includes Outreach partnering with several agencies, to include the affordable rental housing, a daycare facility with the WCCA and a foster home with the Polk County Department of Social Services. 

“The Outreach Board of Directors has recognized that affordable rental housing in the county is scarce,” said Outreach Executive Director George Alley. “Affordable rental housing not only means long-term rentals, but also short-term, transitional housing needed by those impacted by crisis, such as loss of income, a recent family tragedy, a home fire, domestic abuse and homelessness.” 

The homes being built are 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom homes. They were built at the high school, brought on site and finished at the Outreach property. 

Alley said by building the homes with local dollars and no debt, Outreach has the flexibility to rent to families in the area who are most in need. 

“The goal of these affordable rental units are to help families transition from difficult or no housing situations to stable housing to permanent housing within a 3-year timeframe,” Alley said. “The market rent is $800, but our goal is to keep the rent to no more than 30 percent of a families’ annual income, so there is a sliding scale and voucher options.” 

Alley said when they heard that Keith Rimer with the Polk County High School Construction Program were building house shells to be transported to an owner’s building site, Outreach was sold. 

“The thought of helping students develop trade skills and providing affordable housing was a win-win,” Alley said. “Fortunately, the Town of Columbus and PCCF (Polk County Community Foundation) were in agreement and we were able to secure a Bradley Fund grant that was matched by a bequest from the estate of Suzanne Plumly, the town installed a new 6-inch waterline…and viola!” 

The project includes a neighborhood on the property that will have 10-12 single- family homes, the foster home, the daycare center that can serve up to 45 children, a dental clinic, a mental health clinic and a crisis aid organization. 

The neighborhood has walking access to grocery, retail, medical, financial and food services less than a mile away in Columbus. 

“We believe living in a stable, safe environment with proximity to services is a recipe for success,” Alley said. 

The Outreach LifeWorks case management program will be available to provide assistance for job preparedness, financial literacy, transportation and child care as well as Outreach assisting with connecting people with the Housing Assistance Corporation or Habitat for Humanity so families can work towards owning their own home. 

Alley said the next stage of the project has gotten a jump start through the bequest of Ann Jacob Thomas, a land donation from the McFarland Family trust and a $500,000 infrastructure grant from Dogwood Health Trust.