Good News and the Bad News for Shelters

The budget compromise worked out in Congress over the last two weeks will allow funds going to homeless programs to increase by 9% for 2014.  The problem is that getting to that point will mean some tough choices, and those programs cannot be made whole in 2014.  This year and last we had to cut programs and reduce administrative costs.  Last year, every group took a 5% cut in funds.  Nationally, this is a $80 million above the pre Sequester level of $2.03 billion in 2013. This will mean an additional $2.16 million locally in 2014 for homeless and housing programs.  In the last month, the County decided to cut a number of programs and submit four projects that may or may not get funding. The rules do not allow going back and restoring the funds cut over the last few years, and a couple of projects will most likely have closed down over the last few years. 

What does this mean in Cleveland on the ground?  First, most of the transitional programs in the community will see a cut in their federal allocation in 2014.  These shelters will have to figure out how to find local or other funding to maintain services.  Two projects are not seeking federal dollars and will most likely close down in 2014.  Bridging the Gap, NEOCH's former housing program will cease operations in the summer.  It does not house the hundreds it did in the early 2000s, but we do not want to lose any programs that help to house people.  The other program that will have a significant impact on the community is the loss of Continue Life shelter for pregnant women.  This program goes back 20 years and was a response by the religious community to the abortion debate.  Deeply religious folks created this shelter as a place for women to go to get help as an alternative to giving up the child.  The building needs a great deal of help and there is not the level of support in our community that we saw in the 1980s for this facility.  

West Side Catholic has applied for additional funding to serve the pregnant women who previously used the Continue Life shelter.   This would mean no loss in the number of beds available to families in the community, but these would be scattered site transitional units.  Families would not live together in one facility, but would have their own space to live and regular contact with a social worker/housing specialist. Lakewood Community Services, LMM 2100 Lakeside Shelter, Frontline Services Safe Haven and the Norma Herr Women's shelter are all going to have to compete with other programs around the country for any funds left after the prioritized shelters are funded.   In Cleveland, we had $25.180 million needed to renew all the previously funded programs at the level of 2012.   We only have access to $23.995 million because Sequestration in the 2013 budget, which is being distributed in 2014. 

Because of the priorities in Washington, it is unlikely that supportive services only programs like Bridging the Gap or the local hiring of outreach workers to go out and build relationships with those outside and resistant to shelter will be funded as a new project.  A project will have a hard time trying to apply for additional funds to recoup losses over the last two years.  Transitional housing shelters are also not favored by either the local funders or HUD in Washington so it is unlikely that these programs will be able to find additional funding.  The new priority is funding housing programs, homeless prevention or permanent supportive housing programs. 

Brian Davis

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