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Published: Wednesday, 5/23/2012

Editorial

People, not bureaucrats

Nearly 1,000 people live on Toledo's streets. Their pain and suffering will increase greatly if City Council approves a proposal to eliminate federal funding for five homeless shelters.

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Withdrawing Community Development Block Grant support for Aurora House, Bethany House, La Posada, Harbor House, and Family House would be akin to a hospital telling trauma patients to skip emergency-room treatment and go straight to the recovery area.

The Toledo Lucas County Homelessness Board and its executive director, Deb Conklin, seek to shift funding from emergency shelters to transitional housing. Such housing is essential, but it is by definition a stepping stone, not the starting point. Not all homeless people are immediate fits for transitional housing.

If City Council members endorse the homelessness board's plan, the affected shelters will lose large chunks of their budgets. Suggestions that the shelters seek funding through a different federal program, Emergency Solutions Grants, do not offer a solution: Even if their applications were approved, the grants could amount to a 24 percent cut in revenue.

Each of the threatened shelters serves a unique clientele: families with children, battered women, drug and alcohol abusers, fire victims, or people whose finances were ruined by the recession. A one-size-fits-all approach to these facilities won't work.

Ms. Conklin cites what she calls a shift in funding priorities in Washington. She says the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is pressing communities such as Toledo to get homeless people into permanent housing. But most people are not homeless by choice; they come to emergency shelters for a variety of reasons.

If local officials need to challenge Washington bureaucrats, so be it. The City Council and the homelessness board must place the best interests of Toledo-area homeless people first.



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