DECATUR - Stimulus funds provided an unexpected boost not just to construction work but to a number of human services projects the city administered in 2009, according to a report city staff presented Wednesday.

Richelle Irons, director of the city's Neighborhood Services Division, said the stimulus funding the city used to do things such as help low-income residents with costly home repairs and lay the groundwork for a plan to combat homelessness in the community was an unexpected blessing in a time when the city is taking many painful austerity measures.

"It's been a really busy year, but a really successful year," Irons said. "We were able to do some capital improvements, and (the stimulus) allowed a lot of that stuff to continue."

Irons said patching a resident's roof or improving a business' facade have tangible and widespread benefits.

"It turns around a neighborhood," Irons said. "You can't put a dollar amount on how, once a house is fixed up, the neighbors start putting flowers in next door or replacing windows. We feel like it's worth it."

Decatur received $1.5 million in federal funds earmarked for community development and met or exceeded nearly every program goal. The Coalition of Neighborhood Organizations received $15,000 in grant money for administrative costs, while $300,000 in funds marked for citywide demolitions accounted for 40 teardowns.

And $20,000 went toward safety improvements to seven single-family homes, while $154,000 went toward enforcing code violations on 381 properties.

"It's not just about the numbers," said neighborhood programs manager Vickie Buckingham of home improvement data. "It's making a home affordable and allowing the resident to continue living in that house."

Other major expenditures of federal money included $235,000 spent on energy efficiency retrofits to eight properties, and nearly $200,000 went to businesses along Merchant Street to fix up exteriors. Irons also praised the efforts of Dove Inc.'s literacy program, a $50,000 project intended for 40 to 60 people that aided 110 people.

Another $579,000 in federal funds went toward projects that included a first-time homebuyer program and programs that helped homeowners and rental property owners rehabilitate their properties.

Irons also cited the 10-year homelessness plan the money helped fund, which could give rise to a new faith-focused program to help homeless people get back on their feet.

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