HONESDALE – Wayne County commissioners have signed off on a $353,680 grant application whose funds would go toward housing at-risk residents.

County Human Services Administrator Andrea Whyte said the money would help create a set of five apartments within a building owned by the county near the Park Street Complex.

The grant comes through the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement program (PHARE), which provides funding for the construction or renovation of affordable housing.

“We're asking PHARE for the physical plant, the nuts and bolts” to get the project underway, Whyte said.

The goal of the housing, Whyte said, is to provide residences for people with mental illness, or who are high-risk of developing mental illness, and for youth wards of the county to live in while they transition into adulthood.

If all goes well, the county could hear by April if the grant application is approved.

Particularly for the youths, the housing will function as a temporary residence while they meet with various employment services representatives and develop the skills they need to function as adults.

Commissioner Wendell Kay emphasized the importance of the “continuum of care” for residents suffering from mental illness, asserting those requiring the most critical aid reside within institutions under the care of medical professionals. He asked for clarification that the intended residents would be properly vetted to make sure they were not a threat to society.

Whyte said the new housing project is intended as a segue for recovering patients recently released from care but still requiring help to fully reintegrate back into society.

“This venue is for the folks who are recovered … and functioning in recovery within our community, which is good for them and good for the community,” she said.

Those recently released still require a great deal of support, Whyte said, adding, “And part of our case management provides that in addition to 24-hour staff supervision.”

This process is aided significantly by the housing's location next to the Park Street Complex, where the Behavioral Health offices are, she said.

Working with Whyte on the project are Helen Kelly, housing coordinator; Michele Minor Wolf, director of Victims' Intervention Program; Margaret Ennis, Behavioral Health administrator; Michelle Valinski, director of Behavioral Health; and Cindy Batzel, director of the Independent Living Program at Children and Youth Services.

“They've all played a major role in formulating the concept and are seeing it through to its fruition,” Whyte said.