NORTON — Family Crisis Support Services will see a continuation of a 2021 state grant program to combat eviction and homelessness in far Southwest Virginia.

The agency — one of four awardees in last year’s round of the Virginia Eviction Reduction Program — will see $500,000 this year to support eviction prevention services across 40 communities from Tidewater to Southwest Virginia.

FCCS Director Marybeth Adkins said Thursday’s grant announcement by departing Gov. Ralph Northam comes at a time of high demand for help during the pandemic and expiration of the state’s eviction moratorium.

“We started last year with $200,000 and we went through that in about three months,” Adkins said. “This program is designed to be a safety net for people needing help with rent or utilities before it gets to the point where an eviction enters the court system.”

The first grant helped FCCS serve 490 people facing eviction in Lee and Wise counties and Norton, Adkins said. Even with that first grant, FCCS had to spend an additional $19,000 providing those services.

Adkins said FCCS was the only recipient west of Richmond for the 2021 grant cycle, citing a grant application that demonstrated homelessness and eviction affected rural areas as much as urban centers. She said the initial grant helped FCCS work out a system where the agency could provide not only financial assistance for renters facing eviction but also mediation between tenants and landlords to help prevent evictions going to court until some arrangements could be made.

Minimum wage workers can be especially vulnerable to falling behind in rent, Adkins said.

“One incident, one medical bill can set them behind,” Adkins said. “We want to be that safety net that can come in and delay the situation until a solution can be found.”

Adkins said one aspect of the VERP program that has helped applicants was broadening the eligibility of applicants from income 30% above poverty level to 80% above poverty level.

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The 2022 grant becomes available in March, Adkins said. For more information, call FCCS at (276) 325-0471 or (276) 679-8850.