Fort Deposit receives HUD grant for healthy homes

Published 8:26 pm Thursday, November 16, 2023

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By Shelby Mathis


Members of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

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Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH) traveled to Fort Deposit on Oct. 25 to award the Town of Fort Deposit grant funding for the Lead Hazard Reduction Capacity Building Grant Program, money which will be put to work in partner communities in Sumter, Wilcox, Marengo, and Barbour Counties.

Fort Deposit Mayor Jacqulyn Boone was presented with a check for $2.5 million to be used for a comprehensive education program to ensure communities are aware of the risk of lead exposure, potential sources of lead, how to test for the presence of lead and what to do if there is a suspicion of lead exposure.

Jonnette Simmons, HUD Director Grant Services Division, said the program will span across multiple communities and will take on various forms in order to ensure a far and effective reach.

“The education programming will include community events, outreach to childcare facilities and churches, media campaigns including social media, and canvassing activities,” Simmons said. “The Town of Fort Deposit will create and educate youth councils that will assist in educating the communities. The program will also work with healthcare providers to increase blood lead testing of children and the reporting of all tests. Fort Deposit will work with four partner communities in Sumter, Wilcox, Marengo and Barbour Counties and Black Belt Community Foundation.”

Birmingham HUD Field Office Senior Manager Hollis Wormsby said the grant funding will provide a sense of health security for thousands of families across the Black Belt region and congratulated Mayor Boone on her successful efforts to bring this funding to Fort Deposit.

“The funds being awarded today serve the purpose of helping communities identify structures that are costing mostly low income residents that are in need of lead remediation, and provide funding for this remediation to take place,” Wormsby said. “With this funding, thousands of families will be able to live in safer housing without having to have themselves and their childrens’ health be impacted by lead contamination.”

According to the Executive Director of the Alabama Life Research Institute Sharlene D. Newman, Ph.D., results from the Health Literacy Project showed that children were very influential in the aspect of urging parents to eat healthier and get more exercise, which sparked an idea to engage the youth in the lead contamination project as well.

“One of the things that we did in that project and that we are going to continue to do with this project is involve our youth,” Newman said. “The youth will be very much engaged. We will be educating them about lead and about where to find lead, doing some projects about testing to find lead, and basically making them little environmental scientists.”