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Colonias Self Help Center (SHC) Program
In 1995, the 74th Legislature passed Senate Bill 1509; a legislative directive to establish colonia self-help centers in Cameron/Willacy, Hidalgo, Starr, Webb and El Paso counties. This program also allows the Department to establish a colonia SHC in any other county if the county is designated as an economically distressed area. Five colonias in each county are identified to receive concentrated attention from its respective self-help center. Operation of the colonia SHC's is carried out through a local nonprofit organization, local community action agency, or local housing authority that has demonstrated the ability to carry out the functions of a SHC. The law also requires the establishment of a Colonia Advisory Committee (CRAC) to advise TDHCA on the needs of colonia residents, activities to be provided and programs to be undertaken in the selected colonias. Each county selects two (2) colonia residents to serve on the committee, one of the two residents must reside in a colonia being serviced by the self help center.
The Department's board of directors appoint members to the C-RAC, made up of a primary and secondary representative from each county. The C-RAC members meet 30 days prior to making an award to a colonia SHC. The C-RAC has been instrumental in voicing the concerns of the targeted populations and has helped both the Department and the colonia SHC's develop useful tools and programs to address colonia residents needs.
These colonia SHC's provide concentrated on-site technical assistance to low and very low-income individuals and families in a variety of ways including housing, community development activities, infrastructure improvements, outreach and education. In addition, on-site technical assistance is provided to colonia residents. Key services to the designated colonias within each county are receiving include concentrated technical assistance in the areas of: housing rehabilitation; new construction; surveying and latting; construction skills training; tool library access for self-help construction; housing finance; credit and debt counseling; grant writing; infrastructure constructions and access; contract-for-deed conversions; and capital access for mortgages to improve the quality of life for colonia residents in ways that go beyond the provision of basic infrastructure. The three OCI border field offices provide technical assistance to the counties and SHC.
The SHC program serves 28 colonias in the five counties designated by statute and two additional counties; the counties have approximately 10,000 colonia residents whom qualify as beneficiaries of these services. County officials conduct a need assessment to prioritize needs within the colonias and publish a request for proposal (RFP) to provide services as identified by organizations the county. Nonprofits in the county respond, in addition, the nonprofits also recommend the colonias that receive services in each county. Each SHC is allocated sufficient funds to provide services within the designated colonias, and if applicable can provide limited assistance outside the service area. The Department contracts with the counties which subcontracts with nonprofit organizations to administer the SHC program. The County oversees their implementation of contractual responsibilities and insures accountability.
Operation of the colonia SHC's is funded from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) - Texas Community Development Block Program (CDBG) 2.5% colonia set aside which is approximately in the amount of 2.2 million per year. The CDBG funds are transferred to the Department through a Memorandum of Understanding between the Texas Department of Rural Affairs. Therefore, CDBG funds can only be provided to eligible units of general local governments. The Department must enter into a contract with each affected county government. The Department's OCI Division provides administrative and general oversight to ensure programmatic and contract compliance to meet legislative intent. The OCI Division maintains a relationship with the unit of general local government and SHC operator(s) to ensure that the housing and community development activities within each respective contract are achieved. In addition, Colonia SHC's are encouraged to seek funding from other sources to help them achieve their goals and performance measures.