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Avery County Board of Commissioners to Pursue Community Development Block Grant Funding for New Reentry Housing Facility

By Tim Gardner

During their bi-monthly meeting in the County Administration Building in Newland on September 19, the Avery Commissioners voted to pursue Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for a new reentry housing facility in the county.

The Avery County Commissioners include: Martha Hicks, Chairwoman; Tim Phillips, Vice-Chairman; Dennis Aldridge; Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr.; and Blake Vance.

The commissioners’ action followed a public hearing and was taken was by a 3-0 vote. Hicks, Phillips and Aldridge were present for the meeting. Young, Jr. and Vance were absent.

The commissioners adopted a resolution for the Avery County Application for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funding for the 2022 Neighborhood Revitalization Project to provide funds for the new reentry housing facility in Avery County. The resolution reads as follows:

WHEREAS, the Avery County Board of Commissioners has previously indicated its desire to assist in community development efforts for housing within the County; and,

WHEREAS, the Board of Commissioners has held two public hearings concerning the proposed application for Community Development Block Grant funding to develop a facility for reentry housing to benefit low-and moderate-income individuals reentering society; and,

WHEREAS, the Board of Commissioners wishes the County to pursue a formal application for Community Development Block Grant funding to benefit low-and moderate-income individuals; and,

WHEREAS, the Board of Commissioners certifies it will meet all federal regulatory and statutory requirements of the State of North Carolina Community Development Block Grant Program,

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, by the Avery County Board of Commissioners that Avery County is authorized to submit a formal application to the North Carolina Department of Commerce for approval of a Community Development Block Grant to benefit low-and moderate-income individuals that will provide a sober-living re-entry housing facility.

County officials did not give a projected timetable for submitting a grant application, nor for its approval or rejection by the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

The planned building site for the Avery County Reentry House will be on a portion of the 102-acre old State of North Carolina Department of Corrections grounds on Prison Camp Road in the Three Mile Community. The property has easy public road access and private water wells.

According to county officials, the concept of an Avery County Reentry House will be in partnership with the county’s Freedom Life Avery program. The county is committed to the Freedom Life program as a way to combat the drug crisis facing some Avery County citizens. 

Freedom Life Ministries, which started in McDowell County, NC in 2013, is a faith-based organization. It serves justice involved individuals and their families with programs designed to help its clients begin a journey to a new life. The ministries will be branching into Avery County to provide the same support to current and released incarcerated individuals. Freedom Life Ministries is as committed to the pursuit and celebration of both reentry and recovery as much as it is to helping men and women who successfully navigate from actual incarceration through the transitional needs and transformational opportunities of reentry into community life. 

The Avery County Reentry House would help Freedom Life clients with short-term housing needs. The reentry house will not only provide safe shelter, but an opportunity for continued support through group meetings. Mayland Community College will also work with re-entry housing clients to help them obtain a needed General Educational Development (GED) high school equivalency diploma and with resume preparation and other job search assistance. With Mayland’s main campus being only three miles away from the proposed reentry housing complex, county officials believe it would be located in an ideal location.

The Avery County Reentry House will be an approximately 3,072 square- foot facility. It would have six bedrooms and baths for clients. The facility will also have a community kitchen, dining and living areas, laundry rooms and a small office. The bedrooms will be equipped to accommodate two people for maximum usage. The facility could potentially house up to twelve clients at any given time.

The reentry house would be erected on the property along with a housing administration single-wide for employees. Remodeling of a warehouse would also be conducted to allow Freedom Life Avery’s reentry program to facilitate meetings for housing clients as well as other recovery clients in the community. 

Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr. said that the estimated cost and sketch of the reentry house would be between $950,000 to $1,250,000.

The commissioners entered into a property lease with Freedom Life Ministries earlier this year of county owned property in the Linville Township, consisting of two lots, each of which is 25 foot by 180 foot. The property fronts on North Carolina Highway 194. It is recorded in the Avery Register of Deeds office and is known as the Avery Cares property.

The county leased this property to Freedom Life Ministries for a term of less than three years, according to Barrier, Jr.  In consideration of the lease, Freedom Life Ministries will pay monthly rent in the amount of $1.00. 

Freedom Life Ministries is expected to start helping its Avery County clients in January 2023 and the leased Linville property will serve as its Avery headquarters.

Nearly all clients of Freedom Life Ministries struggle with some form of life-altering addictive behavior.  Additionally, studies have revealed that approximately 80 percent struggle directly with various types of substance use addiction. Avery and McDowell counties, much like America as a whole, continues to be negatively impacted by the opioid crises as well as other drugs such as methamphetamine (meth). Individual lives and families are being ripped apart as a result.

Freedom Life Ministries works with many health and medical agencies, other related organizations to help lead the fight against the destructiveness of addiction and for the powerful hope that is recovery.  Together, they research root causes and create new initiatives, resourcing and strategic solutions that address these causes while also providing help directly to men and women trapped in addiction.

For further information about Freedom Life Ministries, call (828) 559-2224; write via U.S. Mail: Freedom Life Ministries, 130 Logan Street, Marion, NC 28752; email: info@freedomlifeministries.org; or log onto its Internet web site at freedomlifeministries.org.