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What’s next in the Goshen Housing Authority saga?

After the Goshen Housing Authority's voucher program was saved Tuesday by the Goshen City Council and the community, what's next?

Posted on Feb. 23, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.

GOSHEN — Now that the Goshen City Council and community members stepped up to save the Goshen Housing Authority’s housing vouchers program, what happens next?

The council agreed to use money out of the city’s rainy day fund to cover a $571,050 shortfall in the program. Some donations have come in to cover part of that shortfall, so the city will pay less than the full amount.

THE RECIPIENTS

For people on the Section 8 voucher program, Tuesday night was an emotional roller coaster at a contentious city council meeting. When a proposal passed to limit the council’s contribution to only matching community donations, it furthered the limbo facing the embattled voucher program.

“We’re not just vouchers, we’re families,” Donna Berkey told the council members.

Monica Anderson, another mom who gets housing assistance, warned the council that losing the program would amount to “displacing children. Not the parents, we can tough it out.” Before the final vote reversed the matching limitation, Anderson said, “We don’t even know if we’ll have a home in October.”

After the vote covered all of the vouchers, Anderson was very relieved. “I’m shaking,” she said.

In front of her, Berkey cried tears of relief.

Berkey’s 9-year-old son, Ian, got up in front of the packed room and thanked everyone who donated the more than $60,000 raised through Tuesday toward the $571,050 shortfall.

Pam Kennedy, director of the joint Warsaw and Goshen housing authorities, said one landlord let his tenants stay in through the end of the month, even though without council help their voucher wouldn’t have happened.

Because of the infusion, the housing authority doesn’t have to cut 100 families or individuals on the program now and another three per month, which is what the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was going to require to make up for the shortfall.

The program puts about $1.5 million into the local economy every year, according to the council and to the housing authority.

THE INVESTIGATION

Exactly what happened to the money remains a question, but one that should be answered in the next few weeks.

An audit of the financial mess that led to the $571,050 missing from the voucher program has been going on for months and is set to wrap up soon.

Also ongoing is an investigation by the Indiana State Police, according to city officials and housing authority representatives. Once that investigation is done the results will be turned over to the prosecutor’s office to decide whether any charges are warranted.

The money is surplus HUD funds for the voucher program. The cash is supposed to be used only for that program.

Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman believes that the money probably wasn’t taken for personal gain, just borrowed as leverage for other programs that didn’t end up making money to pay back the HUD funds. Whether that’s the case remains to be seen.

THE STRINGS

Tuesday’s gift from the city wasn’t a no-strings-attached infusion into the voucher program.

Council member Jeremy Stuts-man said, “This entire community’s looking at this program again. I don’t see how it can go like it went before.”

As part of the deal, the council attached a number of conditions on the monthly payments to the housing authority to keep the program alive.

Those include:

Ÿ Donated funds will be paid first, then city funds.

Ÿ Any money recovered by the housing authority from insurance or court-ordered restitution will go to replenish the city’s rainy-day fund.

Ÿ The Goshen Housing Authority has to provide monthly written reports to the council detailing the financial condition of the authority.

Ÿ The director of the authority will give the council quarterly reports in person.

Ÿ If the council determines the housing authority isn’t moving in a positive direction, the city will cut off the monthly payments.


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