Council to host another hearing about homeless shelter cutsWritten by Brian Bohnert | | email@example.com
Toledo City Council members presented proposed legislation at a June 13 hearing to temper some fears of area homeless shelter directors in light of recent cuts.
Looming budget cuts have trapped some homeless shelters in a bind, as money they have always depended upon dries up with no other source to cover the losses, said Renee Palacios, director of the Family House.
The city released Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) recommendations last week and the results dashed any hopes shelter directors had of making up for cuts they incurred when the city announced Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) recommendations.
These funds come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but allocation decisions are made locally.
The homeless shelters, including the Aurora House, Family House, Bethany House, Harbor House and La Posada Family Emergency Shelter, learned about two months ago that they would no longer receive their typical funding. Many of these shelters have depended on tens of thousands of dollars from these grants each year for decades. The Aurora House, a rehabilitative transitional housing program, used CDBG funding for at least 12 percent of its budget.
The new budget cycle starts at the beginning of July for these shelters, so staff and directors must scramble to fill holes within two weeks.
Palacios said the proposed cuts would eliminate 12 percent from their total budget, around $85,000.
“We have had emergency meetings to find where $85,000 can be cut and we’ve put three things on the chopping block,” Palacios said. “We’ve put feeding our residents, security and transportation for children to our daycare all on the chopping block. When you’re talking 12 percent in 11 days, you have to make some pretty rash decisions.”
The Family House provides 37,000 meals a year to their residents.
Lourdes Santiago, director of the Department of Neighborhoods, said the city’s review panel did not grant some agencies with CDBG funding because they were eligible for ESG funding while other agencies were not. The CDBG pot was shallower this year — Toledo received $6.8 million this year compared to last year’s $8.8 million. At the same time, HUD afforded Toledo $610,000 in ESG, up from $353,000 in the year prior.
Jennifer Flory, a Family House resident, addressed the issue of rapid rehousing — a method that county shelters are being asked to pursue.
For Flory’s daughter, 9-year-old Jaylyn, rapid rehousing would not be good as she has ADHD, epilepsy and a form of autism, Flory said.
“It would not be safe for us to move an autistic child around so much,” Flory said.
Many other shelter residents pleaded with City Council members to make a well-informed decision as to where money needs to go. City Council has the final say.
“This should not be about how many shelters there are,” said Ken Leslie, founder of nonprofit 1Matters and former Toledo Lucas County Homelessness Board member. “If the Family House closes, where will people go?”
Palacios said she won’t give up.
“One Government Center isn’t going to be able to shake us out,” Palacios told Toledo Free Press last week.
Councilman D. Michael Collins introduced a proposed amendment that would reduce funds to other local agencies by 10 percent in order to gently guide the shelters into the fiscal transition.
“This is a one-time fix,” Collins said. “It gives the organizations and the City of Toledo a year to come up with a better way of addressing HUD’s changing priorities and the Department of Neighborhoods’ policies.” Council will host another hearing to present additional proposals.