Friday February 27, 2009
Mayor Jerry Abramson today announced plans to better use $9.2 million in federal and local funds to help get homeless people off the streets, back to work and into safe housing.
Abramson’s approach will provide an additional $1.5 million in federal funds to non-profit agencies that assist homeless people. The agencies will use the funds in large part to hire up to 20 additional case managers, who are critical to ensuring homeless people have the support to get jobs, attend substance abuse counseling and house their families.
“Working together with our non-profit partners, this approach will both add jobs to our economy and help Louisville reduce homelessness,” Abramson said.
In addition, Abramson said he plans to designate $750,000 in the next budget’s External Agency Grant funds specifically for homeless assistance grants. And he’s pledged to speed payments to homeless providers, cutting out 60 days of delay in the approval process from the current system.
The $1.5 million in new funding and the $750,000 set aside for grants will help homeless assistance providers hire employees and add capacity to maximize use of the recently announced $6.43 million in federal grants that provide rent payments and services for homeless and $522,000 in grants for local homeless emergency shelters, said Tina Heavrin, director of the city’s Housing and Family Services Department.
“We aren’t just putting a roof over the heads of the homeless, we’re giving them a chance for new lives,” Heavrin said.
The changes are part of a series of reforms underway at the Housing and Family Services Department, part of Abramson’s plan to strengthen the agency after management and operational problems were discovered last August. Abramson appointed Heavrin to lead the reform effort.
Abramson and Heavrin met earlier this week with leaders of non-profit groups who are part of the Louisville Homeless Coalition to discuss the changes and strategies to strengthen the groups, which are critical to maximizing federal funds to help the homeless.
The meeting included Marlene Gordon, Mary Frances Schaffer and Mark Snyder of the Coalition for the Homeless; Maria Price of Wayside Christian Mission; and Virginia Peck, Director, Office of Community Planning and Development, Louisville Office of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The agencies provide case managers to oversee each person who enters the subsidized housing program, known as Shelter Plus Care. The program requires individuals to seek jobs and, in many cases, substance abuse treatment, to qualify for rent payments.
If individuals fail to live up to those requirements, they no longer meet federal guidelines and no longer qualify for subsidized rent. As a result, the city and non-profit agencies may be forced to return federal grant dollars dedicated to the program.
As part of the city’s effort to strengthen the partnership with the Homeless Coalition, Abramson plans to dedicate $750,000 in the upcoming budget for homeless assistance grants and has asked the Homeless Partnership Grants Committee to recommend the best proposals for funding. In the past, homeless providers competed with other social service agencies for limited funds under the city’s External Agency Funding Program.
The Homeless Coalition Grants Committee already solicits and evaluates proposals for the distribution of Emergency Shelter Grants.
“Using this existing committee of non-profit agencies, the process can be streamlined and the decisions can be made by those who know the challenges the homeless providers face,” Heavrin said.