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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2007
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Fundraiser to help build independent living facility for mentally ill in Moulton

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

The dilemma of this mother and many others may be helped by The Village.

Groundbreaking was Monday on the site for this 11-unit apartment facility in Moulton.

William Giguere, community liaison for the Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama, said it will house those "who have a diagnosable mental illness who would be homeless without the construction of this facility." A manager will live on site.

Giguere, center Executive Director Marie Hood and others worked to secure a $1.26 million 811 grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for The Village project. It will be constructed next to their outpatient facility, the Moulton-Lawrence Counseling Center (across from Moulton's hospital).

The catch? They need to raise matching funds, so the first fundraiser is scheduled a week from today.

"A HUD 811 grant is the type that provides construction of permanent, as opposed to transitional, housing for persons with a disability," said Giguere.

"The 811 grant is very good for the community because it not only provides most of the capital necessary for the construction of the project but also provides for rental assistance for the persons who live in the facility," he said.

The center has some group homes and apartments scattered around, but they are all temporary, transitional type housing, and the residents eventually have to be moved out and into an independent living facility.

Ann Denbo of Decatur, who is on the MHCNCA foundation board, said statistics from the North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless show about 1,300 homeless in North Alabama.

"I think about 40 to 50 percent of those have a serious mental illness," she said, and added that long-term care plans have changed in recent years.

"As parents and caregivers age and then die, some of these people may not have anything to do but go out on the streets," said Denbo. "And it is so hard to try to provide mental health services to somebody who is homeless. You can't find them, and they can't get to your office."

"Not everybody with a mental illness needs to be institutionalized," she said, though many require lifelong assistance. Permanent housing located near treatment centers in communities such as Moulton is ideal.

"It won't fill the entire need, but it will certainly be a start," said Denbo, who is not aware of any housing like this anywhere in North Alabama.

You can't force those who are over 21 into treatment or housing, she said.

"But if you can show them that they can move into some safe housing and be provided with some treatment without having to go into a hospital, a lot of times they'll take you up on that."

You can help

Next week, you can help the foundation raise money to help match a grant for housing.

“Southern Nights and Broadway Lights” is a Sept. 21 fundraiser for the foundation of the Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama, based in Decatur.

The evening will include Broadway show tunes and gospel music numbers by area vocalists such as Laura Burdeshaw, Lance Pate, Beth Swann, Al Miller and Mary Catherine McAnnally.

Dave Briley will direct them in songs from “Phantom of the Opera,” “Wicked,” “Brigadoon,” and “Little Mermaid.” The gospel section will include “How Great Thou Art,” “Washed in the Blood” and “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” Also taking part will be violinist Vilhar Weimann and humorist Randy Cross.

The fundraiser will begin at 6 p.m. with a silent auction hour and jazz band music in the lobby of the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts. Gourmet desserts and coffees will be served, along with wine.

Mental Health Center board Chairman Jim Denton said tickets are $75 each or $125 per couple. Call 260-7324, 260-7351 or 340-1778.

PATRICE STEWART

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