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April 25, 2006

Short News: They’ve got CLOUT

Suzanne Collett is 24 years old, with short black hair and a baby’s face. She has two daughters, a toddler who bounces over the ground like a marionette, and a stroller-bound 14-month-old. For the last month they’ve been living at Volunteers of America, a non-profit faith-based organization that helps people who’ve undergone hardships like Collett’s. She married young and had a child who sustained a birth injury, for which Collett and her husband had to pay considerable, ongoing medical bills. They didn’t have health insurance. In February, Collett’s husband lost his job. He left, moved back with his parents because, as Collett says, he couldn’t handle the pressure. So she’s homeless, with no money and no family that can help her and the kids.Collett spoke to a congregation of about 350 Monday night, at this year’s annual CLOUT (Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together) Action Assembly, under the triangular roof of Buechel United Methodist Church. The purpose was to prod city leaders — two members of the Metro Council, Leonard Watkins and Rick Blackwell, were present — to adopt a local Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which would help pay for families like Collett’s to have a place to live.The General Assembly passed a bill this session that gives a permanent revenue source to the state trust fund, which has been active since 1992, and allows for the creation of localized funds. Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, who sponsored the bill, spoke Monday and presented an $8.6 million check to the gathering of more than 20 religious congregations, as well as representatives from Metropolitan Housing Coalition, Habitat for Humanity and other social justice organizations. Wayne’s check represents the minimum amount expected to be in the fund in two years.Louisville will receive 18 to 20 percent of the state trust fund. Watkins and Blackwell said they plan to lobby other Metro Council members to establish a local fund. BY STEPHEN GEORGEsgeorge@leoweekly.com