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Beginning in January, the High Point Housing Authority will choose 70 individuals or families to receive help paying their rent while they get free job training and help finding a job.

High Point will receive $1.67 million in the next five years from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through Operation Bootstrap. The program, part of Secretary Jack Kemp's new initiatives at HUD, is designed to let people help themselves out of poverty.Ken Martin, executive director of the housing authority, said he's looking for unemployed people or those who are in part-time or unskilled, low-paying jobs - people often referred to as the underemployed.

``Our goal is to train them to have meaningful jobs,' Martin said. ``To let them go to school and improve their conditions.'

Martin said a similar local program he tried about 15 years ago - long before requiring people who receive government help to get jobs came in vogue - convinced him that linking training and rent subsidies does work.

High Point's program provided a high school education and training to hang wallpaper or be a house painter. The city also helped 42 people through a similar HUD program several years ago.

``The new program is not quite as restrictive,' Martin said. ``They designed this program around the trials of the old one.'

The High Point authority is the only one in the state and one of nine in the southeast to receive funding through Operation Bootstrap, said Laura Hunsaker, a spokesman in HUD's regional office in Atlanta.

The program is administered through HUD's Section 8 program, which provides federal money for people to live in private housing, not government-owned housing.

The 70 people or families will be chosen from a waiting list for Section 8 housing or from people with federal preferences, Martin said. A family receives preference if it pays more than 50 percent of its income for housing and utilities, lives in substandard housing or is displaced by government action.

Residents are required to put 30 percent of their income toward rent and utilities, and the federal money pays the rest. The residents have to choose places with rent no higher than the area average for that type of house.

Once accepted into the program, the residents will go to the Private Industry Council's job training center in High Point. The industry council, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor through the Job Partnership Training Act, provides counseling and job placement for low-income people in Guilford County.

Counselors at the center will help the residents decide what type of job they want and what education they need, said Harriet Page, support services coordinator for the council.

``We meet them where they are,' Page said. Some people need to get a high school diploma and then attend classes at Guilford Technical Community College, and others just need help in learning how to interview for a job and then keep the job they get, she said.

As participants finish the training program and find jobs, the government will pay less of their rent, Martin said.

``They will in effect move themselves out because we won't be subsidizing them anymore,' he said. ``They'd be paying rent, and they'd be paying taxes.'


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