For Ernest Yurich, finding work is a difficult task.

"I don't have 25 skills to go out and land anything," Yurich said.He lives in a local hotel and eats at various places - the Food and Shelter Coalition, most often.

Yurich, 38, is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. His journey to homelessness began five years ago.

"Unemployment really hit me hard and vagrancy set in," Yurich said. "I went on the road, and I never came back, if you want to put it that way. I didn't realize my situation was so bad. I got used to sleeping in (friends') garages."

On Sept. 12, 1990, there were 31 chronically mentally ill people in the Provo/Orem area who were homeless or without permanent, adequate housing, according to figures compiled by Wasatch Mental Health Center.

Of those 31 people, 12 - like Yurich - literally have lived on the streets or in shelter hotels and got have eaten their meals at local food kitchens.

Come spring, a handful of those people will have a place to hang their hat and call home - without fear of being thrown out, even if they can't pay the rent.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded Utah, for use by the Provo City Housing Authority, a $60,247 grant to acquire and rehabilitate an existing duplex into a permanent residence for four to eight homeless handicapped people.

Provo City is the first applicant from Utah to receive a grant from the Permanent Housing for the Homeless Handicapped program. Nationwide, HUD distributed $15 million to 104 projects in 21 states.

The grant, matched with $30,000 in state funds, will also be used to provide mental health care and vocational training for the individuals.

"Our position is that the mentally ill are the most susceptible to homelessness," said Doug Carlson, director of the Provo Housing Authority. "Currently Provo doesn't have any housing specifically set aside for the handicapped homeless . . . One great need is housing of mentally handicapped individuals. That is what we have tailored this program around."

Carlson has not yet acquired a duplex but hopes to have a building ready for occupation by the end of winter or early spring.

Yurich, who is being trained as a kitchen helper at Wasatch Mental Health Center, said a place to call home "would make me happy."

"That would be very nice," he said. "I'd take a shot at it. I'd be happier."