March 1st, 2010

Homeless assistance programs are funded again

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) renewed millions in grant funding for homeless assistance programs throughout New England.

The funding, announced at the end of December, was part of nearly $1.4 billion to support 6,400 existing programs nationwide through HUD’s Continuum of Care programs. HUD provided the renewal grants to local programs to prevent any interruption in federal assistance. This was the first time HUD announced the renewal and new grants separately, so as not to delay funding to the existing programs.

HUD’s Continuum of Care grants are awarded competitively and provide permanent and transitional housing to homeless persons and fund services including job training, health care, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and child care.

In Rhode Island, $4.7 million in grants was renewed for nearly 50 homeless assistance programs.

“We are grateful that HUD has renewed funding for all of the programs included in the grant application,” says Richard Godfrey, CEO of Rhode Island Housing, which submitted a grant application on behalf of dozens of agencies across the state. “The programs provide permanent and transitional housing to our state’s most vulnerable residents, as well as critically-needed social services. Without this funding, many of these programs would cease to exist, leaving many people with nowhere to turn.

“However, just as important as funding for renewing projects is funding for new programs to meet the housing needs of a growing homeless population,” Godfrey says. “HUD has not yet made a decision on funding for new programs.”

HUD officials indicated they will announce funding for new projects early this year.

“The economic crisis is battering people who are most vulnerable. With job losses and homes lost due to foreclosure, the number of Rhode Islanders without homes has increased nearly 50 percent,” says Godfrey. “This creates a surging need for shelter and services at a time when state government and charitable organizations are forced to reduce funding for programs and services. The continuation and expansion of federal support is absolutely critical.”

Among new projects in Rhode Island’s Continuum of Care application is a request for 11 new Shelter + Care vouchers targeted to the chronically homeless and $527,552 for a new development of permanent supportive housing in the city of Woonsocket.

The renewed funding does not include emergency housing, Godfrey says. Among programs receiving the renewed funding are Safe Haven I and II, run by the Urban League of Rhode Island, which provides intensive case management for chronically homeless individuals.

Access RI, another program for chronically homeless people with mental health and drug abuse issues, is receiving more than $190,000 from the grant, Godfrey says. “The funding helps to provide food, a place to shower, transportation to services and visits with case workers,” Godfrey says. “Access R.I. was one of the first agencies to embrace the Housing First model, where chronically homeless individuals are first given a permanent place to live. Once they have a safe, permanent home, services are provided as the client accepts them.”

The Housing First model is being promoted through the state’s 10-year plan to end homelessness and the Continuum of Care.

The other New England states received the following renewals:

In Massachusetts, HUD renewed $56.9 million for 302 programs, ranging from just over $19 million for the Boston CoC to $357,869 for the Pittsfield/Berkshire County CoC.

In Connecticut, HUD renewed $28.8 million for 129 programs, ranging from just over $5 million for New Haven CoC and Hartford CoC, to $348,848 for Bristol CoC.

In Maine, $8.9 million was renewed for 43 programs, including $3,144,905 for Portland CoC and $1,323,434 for Bangor/Penobscot County CoC.

In Vermont, HUD renewed $3.3 million for 21 programs, including $788,512 for Burlington/Chittenden County.

In New Hampshire, $5.2 million in grant funding was renewed, including $1,685,037 to Nashua/Hillsborough County CoC and $907,783 to Manchester CoC.

By Pamela Berard

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