Madison County residents in need can reach out to the federally funded Ninth District Opportunity Inc. for potential assistance.
Michael Fisher, housing/program coordinator for the organization, spoke recently about efforts to help Madison County residents with heating and air payments, eviction prevention and housing arrangements.
The Ninth District’s energy assistance program is offered to low-income residents — first to seniors, then to the general public.
“In the summer, we make a one-time payment toward their cooling program, which is the utility provider, then in the winter we make a one-time payment toward their heating provider,” said Fisher. “So it really helps a lot of these families. That money for a lot of these folks who are low-income, especially these seniors on a fixed budget, they’re going to find the difference in making that payment is whether they can eat, pay their medical bills, get their prescriptions or stay warm that month. We feel it’s really a great ministry, even though we’re not a ministry program, we feel it’s a gift we’re able to provide for these people at that time.”
Ninth District Opportunity Inc. is a community action agency funded through an annual grant from the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). The mission of the organization, which employs about 25 people, in 13 northeast Georgia counties, is to “help people reach the goal of self-sufficiency and lessen the causes of poverty.”
The organization works to help renters stay in their residences.
“We also do eviction prevention, helping landlords who have clients who have gotten behind on their rent, so we try to stabilize that situation, get the client caught up on their rent, get the deposits paid, then we provide case management with them going forward to make sure they can take care of themselves, find self sufficiency and independence and don’t revisit that situation in time,” said Fisher. “We’re definitely a hand-up, not a hand-out program.”
Ninth District Opportunity Inc. looks for housing for those without a home.
“We also do re-housing, which is taking the homeless folks, people living in cars, wherever they may be, anywhere not suitable for human habitation, we try to move them into permanent housing through case management, get them the resources, the skills, the referrals, the contacts to help them find their independence,” said Fisher. “We’ll help them pay their deposits, rents paid for awhile, as long as they stay active with the referrals and the case management, we’ll continue to work with them.”
Fisher said this effort includes “street outreach.”
“We send people out and we find people who are living in parks, in cars, abandoned buildings and try to get them into the hotels and motels and stabilize them,” he said. “And then we work with them toward a permanent housing solution from there.”
Ninth District Opportunity Inc. is expanding its services in Madison County, though it does not have an office in the county.
“We don’t have one in this county, but we’d love to talk about that in time,” he said.
Fisher said most services have been handled digitally since the pandemic began.
“We’re meeting with them (clients) through electronic means, through the phone,” said Fisher. “For the most part, it’s done non face to face.”