The United Way Blackhawk Region will give ECHO a $40,000 grant to hire a full-time staff member to help people facing homelessness.

The grant was announced during the United Way’s annual Live United celebration Wednesday.

Money given to ECHO will be used to hire a full-time housing and resource navigator to help Rock County residents attain affordable housing, said United Way CEO Mary Fanning-Penny.

“United Way is proud to be responsive to the need for enhanced homelessness services in our community,” Fanning-Penny said.

ECHO’s housing navigator will go with Rock County residents to meet with landlords, fill out housing applications or move through other steps in finding affordable housing.

The navigator will build relationships with landlords across Rock County to teach them how to better serve low-income residents, said Jessica Locher, associate director of ECHO.

Some of ECHO’s clients face mental health issues or other barriers that make it difficult for them to find housing, Locher said.

ECHO will post the job description for the position on its website Monday and will accept applications through mid-April. The individual who is hired will begin July 1, Locher said.

ECHO will be looking for applicants who have strong communication skills, are detail-oriented and have background in social work or human services, Locher said.

Locher and Fanning-Penny serve on Rock County’s Homeless Intervention Task Force and have participated in round-table discussions on homelessness hosted by Janesville City Manager Mark Freitag.

“I believe that homelessness is certainly an ongoing problem in our region and one that requires innovative solutions,” Fanning-Penny said.

The $40,000 capacity building grant will be funded by the United Way. The United Way gives these grants each year in addition to its community grant program. Funding fluctuates each year, Fanning-Penny said.

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