VALDOSTA -- The Georgia Department of Community Affairs will host a meeting today to discuss grant opportunities for local municipalities, churches and nonprofit organizations which provide services to the homeless and people with AIDS.

The 8:30 a.m. meeting at First Christian Church, 1905 N. Patterson St., also will serve to set funding priorities for DCA's Region 11, which comprises 18 South Georgia counties, including Lowndes and other surrounding counties.

The DCA will distribute $4.5 million in grants for homeless programs across the state this year, with an additional $1.5 million for AIDS outreach projects.

While the grants are not open to individuals, Laurel Halen, executive director of the South Central Georgia Task Force for the Homeless, said groups interested in starting a shelter or a nonprofit group should still attend. Churches could also be eligible to receive and administer these grants.

"Essentially, the majority of funding for homeless shelters and services for our area comes from state and federal dollars," she said. "It's very important that all providers attend so they can identify needs and set priorities for our area. If you don't provide your input, those needs may be overlooked."

The grants range from $40,000 for specific shelter enhancements to $100,000 for construction projects. The grants require some local matching funds, ranging from 25 to 40 percent of the total grant.

The grants run from July 1 to June 30 and are eligible for renewal.



To contact reporter Bill Roberts, please call 244-3400, ext. 245.



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