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SMOC awarded grant to aid elderly

WORTHINGTON -- The Southwestern Minnesota Opportunity Council in Worthington will share in $7.1 million in Living Well at Home grants awarded by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

WORTHINGTON - The Southwestern Minnesota Opportunity Council in Worthington will share in $7.1 million in Living Well at Home grants awarded by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

SMOC was awarded up to $226,238, which will be used to fund home improvement projects to keep older adults in their home, as well as target elderly residents who are at risk of homelessness in Nobles, Murray, Rock and Pipestone counties.

Paula Boehrs, SMOC’s community services coordinator, said this is the first time SMOC has received a Living Well grant. The agency applied for the funds earlier this year to address needs seen within its service area.

“We can do things like putting in grab bars, walk-in showers, main floor laundry access, an interior or exterior ramp, flooring to prevent trip hazards, things like that,” Boehrs said of the funds that will be targeted to housing modifications. The hope is that there will be enough dollars to assist 30 households over the next two years.

Individuals in need of financial assistance for housing modifications must be 60 years of age or older and meet certain income guidelines. Boehrs said there is a sliding fee scale, meaning applicants may get all or a portion of the work paid for by the grant.

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Boehrs said people interested in the program should contact Doug Mead, community development director, or Gina Graff, housing inspector, at SMOC at 376-4195. They will need to meet with the agency’s housing inspector to discuss their needs prior to the housing inspector visiting the home and developing a plan of action to address the individual’s needs.

Meanwhile, the grant funding to target seniors at risk of homelessness is available for individuals who may have been a victim of a scam and lost a good deal of money, or individuals who may have lost a job and need to supplement their income because they are in danger of losing their housing.

“We look at arrears and at utility costs,” Boehrs said, adding that other funding sources will also be sought to assist seniors in those particular situations. With the funds, she anticipates SMOC will be able to assist 10 individuals with homeless assistance and another 10 individuals with homeless prevention assistance during the next two years.

People interested in learning more about the funds available for homeless or those at risk of becoming homeless should contact Boehrs at 376-4195. Boehrs said SMOC was excited to be awarded the grant funds.

“We’ve never had this funding source before,” she said. “We are real excited to see what we can do.”

Boehrs said SMOC is seeing an increase in need among the area’s senior population, with more and more individuals asking for assistance. Had it not been for the grant awarded by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, she said SMOC would have had to look elsewhere for funding sources.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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