To help smooth the transition to new homes, residents along 15th Street including tenants of Cherry Tree Crossing can get free counseling and education services from Shiloh Comprehensive Community Center.
The educational program is designed to help individuals and families who will be displaced when Augusta Housing Authority vacates Cherry Tree Crossing before demolishing the public housing project. Additionally, a small number of residents in the area could be affected by a Georgia Department of Transportation plan to widen 15th Street from two to four lanes.
“You’ve got to have a plan to relocate,” said Shiloh’s executive director, Elizabeth Jones.
Because many Cherry Tree Crossing residents will choose to take Section 8 vouchers, the classes will coach individuals on new responsibilities that come with moving from public housing to regular neighborhoods, Jones said. Residents need to be familiar with responsibilities such as maintaining landscaping, caring for a house or apartment and paying rent and bills.
“We are going to talk to them about what it takes to be a good neighbor,” she said. “When people transition into neighborhoods, we want them to be a part of the neighborhood and not a problem in the neighborhood.”
Additionally, the classes will help individuals make informed choices about employment before moving to a new location, Jones said. Residents need to make sure there are employers nearby and they have sufficient access to public transportation if needed.
The first phase of classes begins Sept. 9 and will continue throughout the area’s redevelopment process beginning at different times as needed, Jones said.
The 15th Street corridor has been the focus of the Augusta Sustainable Development Implementation Program, a $1.8 million study addressing affordable housing, jobs, commercial development and transportation in a large section of Augusta’s urban core.
The sustainable development program is ahead of schedule and under budget, said John Paul Stout, the city’s sustainable development manager. U.S. Housing and Urban Development funds totaling $70,000 were redirected to provide the services at Shiloh.
“The success rate of people who have grown up in public housing and make the transition to Section 8 housing has been historically very low, not just in Augusta but nationwide,” Stout said.
Augusta Housing Authority also provides one-on-one counseling services with its tenants before and during relocation, said the director of resident services, Buddy Oldfield.
If the resident wants to use a Section 8 voucher, the housing authority will show them housing options where the voucher can be used.
“A person is going to be assigned to you from the time we start relocating you until the time you are settled,” Oldfield said.