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ACC's eviction prevention program might get second chance

Nearly six months after Athens-Clarke County’s Eviction Prevention Program was suspended for financial irregularities, the program may get a second chance under new management.

At their agenda-setting meeting tonight, commissioners will debate whether to hold a vote early next month on awarding $900,000 to Family Promise and The Ark to take over the dormant program and expand it to provide assistance to families at risk of eviction in addition to those already in the eviction process.

According to county documents, the revamped program will serve a minimum of 200 Clarke County families.

Both The Ark and Family Promise have significant experience working with homelessness and housing insecurity. The Ark has provided emergency rental assistance for 34 years, while Family Promise has operated an eviction prevention program of its own for four years. The two organizations have handed out over $1 million in emergency rental assistance since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The Eviction Prevention Program was intended to help residents facing eviction by providing direct financial assistance to catch up on rent and by working with landlords to keep renters in their homes. Over objections from county staff, ACC commissioners agreed in late 2021 to enter into a contract with Athenian First Development Corporation, or AFDC, to administer the program.

But the program was plagued with problems. In May 2022, Athens-Clarke County staff noticed what they characterized as “inconsistencies” in AFDC’s bank records. Repeated requests in June 2022 for bank statements went unanswered until early July. The program was suspended in October 2022 and the matter was referred to the Athens-Clarke County Police Department for further investigation.

Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.