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Potsdam halfway house stalls as grant application rejected

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POTSDAM — A halfway house for homeless women recovering from drug addiction failed to receive grant funding from the state Homeless Housing Assistance Program, postponing the project and forcing its organizers to seek other options.

Carolyn M. White, former director of the chemical dependency unit at Canton-Potsdam Hospital and chairwoman of New Hope Transformation Ministries, got the news of the state’s decision on her birthday.

“When I got the email I was heartbroken,” she said.

The plan called for a home at 88 Market St., a property that has been vacant for more than 20 years. It would house up to 12 women at a time. Residents, all of whom would have recently completed a rehab program, would learn job skills while living at the house for six to 12 months.

The idea was created by New Hope Transformation Ministries, a Christian nonprofit agency founded by members of New Hope Community Church.

Now the plan is on hold, as board members consider their next steps.

It would take nearly $1.3 million to buy the land, build the house, and get the program off the ground.

The group has received permission from the village to build on the vacant lot, and property owner James E. Sheehan has promised to sell it to the group as soon as it has the funds.

Workers at the state Homeless Housing Assistance Program have offered to help the group rewrite its grant application, although they did not specify why the group was passed over in the first place.

This extra assistance could push it over the top, helping the proposed program stand out in a competitive process, according to Ms. White, who said she has had little experience writing grants before now.

New Hope Transformation Ministries will re-apply for the Homeless Housing Assistance Program as soon as it can improve the application. In the meantime, the group is seeking other sources of state grant funding.

“You just kind of sigh and say, ‘Well, we’ve got to pick up these pieces and see where we’re going,’” Ms. White said.

The lack of funding has left the project in limbo, as the group cannot move forward without the money to build.

The plan was criticized by some residents when it was presented to the village Planning Board last year. Neighbors worried that crime would increase if recovering drug addicts lived downtown.

Despite the obstacles, Ms. White said the house will still become a reality as quickly as possible.

“We’re not giving up by any stretch of the imagination,” she said.

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