During a brief program this week, The Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) presented Project Return with more than a quarter-million dollars to help launch a brand new initiative to create affordable rental housing for individuals returning successfully from incarceration.
Project Return is a Nashville-based nonprofit that helps hundreds of people every year transition from prison to independent, productive lives. Participants in Project Return’s programs face great difficulty finding long-term rental housing due, in part, to landlords refusing to rent to individuals with conviction histories. With its new housing initiative, Project Return will purchase scattered-site housing and then rent out the units to its program participants directly.
Bettie Kirkland, Executive Director of Project Return, addressed the crowd to kick off the program. After Rep. John Ray Clemmons (District 55) discusses the role that Project Returns plays in the community.
Councilperson Freddie O’Connell (District 19) then talked about the importance of Project Return for his own constituents and beyond.
Sen. Thelma Harper (District 19) who has been an active supporter of Project Return for decades also spoke a few words about the importance of the organization.
After, Denise McBride, Industry and Government Affairs Liaison at THDA, presented Kirkland with a check for more than a quarter-million dollars.
McBride explained why Project Return’s unique vision for affordable housing led to them being chosen by THDA for this grant.
In conclusion the Rev. Edwin Sanders, Senior Servant and Founder of Nashville’s Metropolitan Interdenominational Church, delivered a moving message of hope.
The scattered-sight housing is part of the first stage in the development of the new Project Return Opportunities for Housing Program (PRO Housing) and will include apartments and duplexes. Under its PRO Housing initiative, Project Return will own and manage additional rental properties for its program participants. Fewer than 15 percent of the people served by Project Return are ever re-incarcerated.
“Affordable, accessible housing is a particularly daunting challenge for people who are returning to our community after incarceration,” said Kirkland. “They’re gaining employment and getting their new lives on the right track, and this grant will help us ensure that they’re not shut out from housing.”
THDA issued the $284,042 grant from the Tennessee Housing Trust Fund (THTF), which receives no tax dollars but is instead funded by revenue from THDA’s Great Choice Home Loan program. Nonprofits and local governments from across the state compete twice a year to receive THTF funding for their affordable housing initiatives.
Since 2006, THDA has provided more than $74 million in THTF grants.
Project Return will start looking for properties right after the New Year and are looking to be completed by the first quarter in 2017.