LYNCHBURG, Va. – Horizon Behavioral Health is receiving nearly $2 million in federal funding to fight homelessness and substance abuse in Central Virginia.
“There are way more homeless individuals in this area, or people also struggling with housing insecurity,” said Dammy Onafowokan, co-project director for the Horizon program.
Onafowokan said that between the cost of housing going up and an increase in mental health and substance abuse issues, more people are struggling.
“Even though they may not be out on the street, they may be doubled up in housing, they might be couch surfing, they might be crashing at a friend’s house or relative’s place,” said Onafowokan.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 20,000 public school students, between the ages of 18-25, experienced homelessness in Virginia during the 2018-2019 school year.
“It is a major, major issue and quite honestly it has only gotten worse,” said Onafowokan.
So Horizon is trying to help that age group.
The organization was awarded $1,991,554 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The goal is to assist 245 people over the next five years.
Onafowokan said Horizon received a similar grant about two years ago when they partnered with other local organizations to offer other services.
“We helped them with a place to take a shower, with finding clothing, with seeking jobs, etc.”
Now, they’ll have funding to provide temporary housing, too, with the hope of getting people back on their feet.
“It’s not just about finding them housing, but it does no good if they can’t maintain that housing,” said Onafowokan.
Horizon is still in the process of creating the program, but Onafowokan said he expects to have it up and running in September.