The Office of Homeless Services "Advisory Board" met this week and approved another 2% cut for the transitional shelters and safe haven programs in Cuyahoga County. Staff and County Review and Ranking committee members have come up with a strategy to better compete at the national level by eliminating social-service-only projects as much as possible because HUD hates funding service instead of housing. It is hoped in the second round of funding the 2% can be restored, but there is no guarantee. We also learned at the meeting that because of stating publicly that we have cut long term homeless, Cleveland is penalized. This dubious statistic was criticized by Richard Trickel in a guest blog, and NEOCH agrees that this 73% decrease in long term homeless is at best deceptive at its worst is an outright lie. It is understandable for the Department of Housing and Urban Development focused its funding on housing if Health and Human Services stepped forward to fund services. We are getting cuts from the federal government while the number of homeless people especially families is increasing.
At the meeting this last week, representatives from the Salvation Army and West Side Catholic both expressed concern over the continued declines in funding for shelters. Both expressed concern that any further cuts (7% two years ago, 5% last year and now 2% this year) could results in further closing of local shelters or the loss of beds. In 2014, Continue Life closed after a cut in funding from HUD. It is no wonder we have such a problem with families in light of shelters closing in Cleveland. Over the years, we lost Triumph House, East Side Catholic, Continue Life, the Upstairs program (single women), and Family Transitional. We have had reductions in other programs resulting in a huge gap in beds available to homeless people. This would be fine if we were not also losing affordable housing in the community.
Congress passed the HEARTH Act a couple of years ago, which mandated huge changes in the homeless funding system. It prioritized long term homelessness, and mandated outcomes to reduce homelessness. The bill passed with language that sought a doubling of the funding for shelters and housing programs for homeless people. In the toxic environment of Washington DC, this never happened. Instead, we have seen a steady decline in funding, and shelters are closing. HUD made these huge changes in the process and the rules and the expectations, but did not give the shelters additional funding to implement these changes. Remember, the shelters do not get an increase in funding for cost of living changes every year. The funds that they received when they first started getting federal dollars is the top funding available to them. They can reduce their request, but cannot ask for additional funding. How many programs or households could survive if they had the same income from their core funding source for 20 straight years?
With the cuts made by United Way, we have a real crisis in serving homeless people. No matter what the County says about a decrease in long term homelessness, there are more people seeking help. There are more people outside than we saw living outside last year, and there are fewer options for women and women with children.
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