There was a vote today on the recommendations for shelter funds for 2014. These are federal dollars from the 2013 allocation from HUD which involves a 5% cut because of Sequestration. To fully fund all of our currently funded shelters, services, and housing programs for homeless people we need $24,608,600 and HUD is only giving us $23,995,100. This means that a few of the shelters will face a large cut in funding and another group of services/shelters will not know if they are going to get funded at all until February 2014. For five facilities in Cleveland, they are going to wait to see if HUD picks their project based on the amount of money unspent at the national level and competition from every other city in America.
There are a number of projects which will see a cut in 2014. The Cleveland Tenants Organization Bridging the Gap program and the County Planning grants will both be eliminated in 2014. NEOCH started Bridging the Gap back in 1990s, and in its prime it was housing over 100 people per year for the relatively small amount of $55,000 per year in Federal dollars. We had received other local funding and an AmeriCorps grant to provide additional staff, but they program had a huge impact back in the early 2000s. The BTG staff helped CMHA to improve their occupancy rate, opened up regular meetings with the housing authority application's staff and figured out a way to place the hardest to serve in our shelters into housing. The program had dwindled to serving only a handful of people under CTO, but the program will be missed. I still get calls from alumni of the program who thank us for helping them get into housing even today.
Around 80% of the federal funding for homeless services goes to Permanent Supportive Housing. It is difficult to cut these programs because that would mean that the units either sit vacant or the disabled residents in these units will not have social service help. In the plan that the County is submitting none of the PSH programs are slated to be cut. The transitional housing programs take a huge blow as does street outreach. Neither HUD nor the County are in love with transitional housing shelters anymore. Staff from both HUD and the County view these programs as fads from the 1980s which keep people homeless too long and screen out the hardest to serve. So, the Salvation Army transitional housing programs take a cut as does the Y-Haven program which will see a $50,000 reduction. The West Side Catholic collaboration with the Domestic Violence and THI transitional housing program even though it was ranked with high marks received a cut and the Transitional Housing Inc. (THI) program also received a substantial cut in the 2013 plan. The Frontline Services outreach and payee program for mentally ill people was cut in half which means that there will be 2 fewer outreach staff on the streets of Cleveland in 2014.
These cuts are a direct result of Sequestration and the inability for Congress to agree on a budget. We said over and over that we would not see the full results of Sequestration until 2014, and now it is time to pay the piper for Washington austerity and ineptitude. We saw more families show up to request shelter in 2013 and yet we are going to see 5% fewer federal dollars to meet that need. It is also a strange backward world in Washington where HUD officials push us to focus on youth, but not giving us money to carry out those goals. All the money is going to long term homeless or those defined by HUD as having been documented to be on the streets for over a year typically with a disability, but homeless youth do not fall in these categories. They couch surf which make them lose their eligibility for long term homeless programs as defined by HUD. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has also downplayed outreach, but how do we find these long term homeless without outreach? Those who need permanent supportive housing are not in the shelters they are living on the streets. It is impossible to document these guys as being homeless without outreach workers. There is no doubt HUD has been crippled by Congressional cuts, but they are not revising their strategies to meet the new funding reality in Washington. We cannot carry out all these goals of serving those leaving foster care, the long term disabled and increasing homeless families if we have fewer dollars. The pie cannot be cut into any smaller pieces especially if HUD is not giving us enough money to keep our doors open.
There are five projects who are not being recommended in the first "Tier" of funding. These programs have no idea if they will receive any money in 2014. They are going to have to compete against every other "Tier 2" recommended project in the United States. All the Tier 1 programs (31 locally) are safe for 2014 funding as long as HUD qualifies our local Cuyahoga application. If HUD has any money left after all the Tier 1 projects are funded, they will rank all the Tier 2 funded projects in the United States and take the top projects until all the money is used. So, our projects recommended in Tier 2 will compete against those in Seattle, Los Angeles, Columbus and Boston for funding. There is a small grant for the main Men's Shelter (2100 Lakeside) and the main Women's Shelter (Norma Herr) being recommended in Tier 2. There is a small housing grant to Lakewood Community Services for rental assistance to those on the West Side of Cuyahoga County and a supportive service grant to Frontline Services for mentally ill homeless people. The biggest hit to our community is the Continue Life program which serves pregnant women. Continue Life has struggled for the last five years and is looking for merger opportunities, but it is the only project that serve pregnant women in need of shelter. It is a critical project that could be lost if they do not receive federal support.
We congratulate the staff of the County Office of Homeless Services including Ruth Gillett and Shari Weir for putting this all together. They coordinate a review of every project every year. This year they will finish the 2013 round in January and will immediately start the 2014 funding application which will need to be submitted in March 2014. (More proof of how messed up Washington has become). They rank these projects and help a committee make these recommendations to County Council and the County Executive. They met with the Homeless Congress about these cuts to solicit their ideas. They met with social service providers to walk through some of these concerns. Coalition staff are concerned about the future of the Continue Life program and the reduction in outreach, but the County plan seems to be the best we could do in a tough spot. I do not understand the changes at THI, but it seems that this project is changing to a permanent housing program and the homeless funds will only serve a small number of transitional housing residents left in the building. These cuts recommended by the County seem to be a move away from homeless funding to a permanent housing funding stream for THI.
We can be angry that our priority project is being cut. We can voice our displeasure over the cuts. We could turn on the County and ask why was our project cut and not theirs, but NEOCH staff would advise against this strategy. This is the County making the best of a bad situation. The easy way out would have just been a 5% across the board cut, but this plan took a huge amount of work to balance all the needs in the community. We should reserve all of our disappointment and anger for Congress. In a time of housing instability and slow job growth, we should be adding funds for homeless services not cutting. It is shameful to cut housing, support services, or shelter when there are so many women with children seeking help. We can be confused by HUD's decision to press on with four different priorities when the local community is struggling to keep their heads above water, but the problem is caused entirely by our elected leaders in Washington not doing their jobs. The people who will not be able to access housing because they lose contact with their outreach staff can blame the US House of Representatives. If the pregnant women's shelter is not funded and women cannot find a place to live they need to call their US Senator to complain. If the transitional shelters have to reduce their size because of the cuts and have beds sit empty, look to the US Congress for responsibility.
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