04/30/12 When Dean Byers left a position at the end of 2011 with the Marshall County Housing Authority that he had held officially since 1995, he knew he was leaving the office in good hands.   Byers, who had been one of the original organizers bringing housing aide to those in need, said they started a formal authority in June of 1995.   At that time, they held 30 vouchers for rent assistance for the entire county and the number has now swelled to 171.

Taking over the day- to day operations of the organization is Donna Veal who has been a constant for the last 13 years. Vela said, “I was working at the Woodduck Cafe and Dean (Byers) said he needed some help organizing the office.” She started by working two to three hours in the evenings, progressed to entering data into the computer, and then advanced to a secretarial position.

Vela is now operating as the Interim Director. The Housing Authority office moved to the Marshall County Court House in April of this year. Byers explained that funding at the state level decreased and the local budget became even tighter. He said the county commissioners didn’t want to see the local office close and offered to provide office space in the county facility. Byers said if a local office closes, then the State of Indiana takes over the voucher distribution. He said, “If that happened, county clients would have no where close by to go to for help.”

Vela said besides the 171 active vouchers, they have a waiting list of 200 individuals or families seeking help. They also have to handle extra vouchers from clients of other counties who have moved to Marshall County and brought a portability voucher with them.

Helping fulfill all the requirements of inspections for the Marshall County office is Diane Woods. Between the two, they have to perform an initial inspection of a rental property before any client can use a voucher for rent, an annual inspection, and another audit inspection. Vela said, “If we get a report of a possible problem, we also have to have special inspections.”

Despite the workload, Vela understands the need for rental assistance. She said, “With this job, I feel like I’m helping somebody.”

Carol Anders Correspondent