VALDOSTA -- Lowndes County offers no transitional housing services for homeless men, but a pair of local women are out to change that.

Pamela McBurrough and Vernell Howard petitioned the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners for assistance in establishing shelter and support services for the area's homeless male population.

The Salvation Army offers short-term shelter for homeless men, but only for a maximum of three days. Vernell and McBurrough envision offering support services and transportation on site to move residents toward self sufficiency.

The women requested $100,000 over three years to help with setup costs and to provide matching funds for various grants. They also want the county to assist them in finding an acceptable building to house the enterprise, known as The Lighthouse of Valdosta.

The organization, which is currently working toward achieving tax-exempt status, has already received an $18,800 grant from the Department of Community Affairs. That grant requires nearly $4,000 in matching funds. The group is also in the running for a $717,000 grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. That grant will not be awarded until late this year, but also requires matching funds.

Commissioners expressed support for the goal of the project, but asked for more specifics about the operation, and indicated they would like to know the status of the HUD grant before proceeding.

The Lighthouse would be open 24-hours a day, 365 days per year and would be modeled on the New Horizons shelter for women and children run by the Lowndes Associated Ministries to People. Howard and McBurrough said the facility would house a minimum of 18 men, if appropriate space is secured.

The Salvation Army sheltered 645 men in 2001 totaling 1,299 room nights and 3,094 meals served. McBurrough and Vernell argue that the Salvation Army program is a good start, but that the area's homeless population requires more long-term housing options and additional service provisions.

A meeting was set today to discuss the project in greater detail.

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

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