County property could aid homeless in proposal by Commissioner Bill Winters
by JOYANNA WEBER, Banner Staff Writer
Nov 02, 2012 | 1037 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
County property acquired from delinquent property tax owners not sold at a tax sale could be used to fill a need for transitional housing in Bradley County, if liability and legal issues are worked out.

The idea was presented by Commissioner Bill Winters to the tax committee Tuesday.

Winters said the county could partner with nonprofit Family Promise, which helps homeless families, by allowing them to lease properties that meet specific guidelines. These properties would serve as temporary housing for Family Promise clients ready to move out of the program, while they look for more permanent housing.

“The county rarely winds up with properties that are habitable or even have structures on them,” Bradley County Attorney Crystal Freiburg said. “Normally if something has a house on it that is even halfway decent, there are going to be several bidders over here.”

Winters said he has been working with County Planner Corey Divel to see if such a plan would work.

“We were looking for if there would be properties that would be suitable, and he and I drove around and looked at about eight to 10 one afternoon ... we found two,” Winters said.

Freiburg said one of the properties is actually owned by the city of Charleston. Committee chairman Jeff Morelock asked if the properties had a house on them.

Winters said yes.

“A lot of work would have to be done,” Winters said.

He said partnering with Family Promise would provide the support services the families need.

“We went over there to feel it out just to see if this is something they could do,” Winters said.

Families stay in the Family Promise program for 13 weeks.

According to information presented at the meeting, “All potential candidates to the program undergo a rigorous screening process, which includes both a drug test and criminal background check.”

“My affinity is for families who have kids in the school setting and need some stability,” Winters said.

Winters said the issue of temporary homelessness brought on by economic factors was brought to his attention through his work on the Bradley County Cleveland Community Services board.

“I think that the greatest thing government can do is to help people who are in need if they have the resources,” Winters said.

Family Promise would offer the support services that the county would not be able to provide.

The organization has established similar relationships in other counties leasing the property from the government.

“I think if we can do something to help the homeless in this community then we ought to do it,” Morelock said.

He said the committee will look into the feasibility of such a plan. Winters said he would continue to research how this has worked in other communities.

If a property does not sell at a tax sale, the owner has one year to redeem the property. If the property is not redeemed, the tax committee tries to sell the land again. If the land is not bought at this sale then it becomes the property of the county.

The proposed plan would only use suitable properties that are past the one-year redemption period.