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The agencies and shelters that serve Toledo’s homeless population should quickly settle their rift over federal funding, and continue efforts to streamline the intake process for those in crisis.
As with most funding used for social services, there is always a greater need than available financial support. Yet funding requests show some shelters asking for budget increases that are double, and sometimes triple, what they were awarded last year. The money simply isn’t there.
Last week, the city learned that it would receive nearly $600,000 — a 14 percent increase — in federal funds from an Emergency Solutions Grant to support homeless shelters and other resources for homeless people. Meantime, Community Development Block Grant funding, which can be used for homeless shelters — but fund many other community agencies — was trimmed to $6.9 million, a nearly 2 percent decease.
The federal anti-homelessness aid is not sufficient, and the agencies and shelters rightfully want more. For example, they requested a total of $886,376 for the 2014-15 budget year, while the Community Review Committees recommended $569,389 — which, sadly, is in line with available funding. The review committees consisted of local leaders and residents who were selected by the city’s neighborhoods department to assess necessary funding for Toledo’s homeless shelters.
Despite community input, however, the behind-the-scenes backbiting and complaining to Mayor D. Michael Collins persists.
The grumblings about funding — our needs are greater than yours — have stifled the progress being made among shelter directors, city officials, social service agencies, and the Toledo Lucas County Homelessness Board.
This week, Councilman Jack Ford, who wants to use $140,000 from the general fund budget to assist homeless shelters, sparred with Mayor Collins, who argues that the money is not available. In a campaign promise, Mayor Collins pledged to overhaul the way city government deals with homeless shelters and sets homelessness policy in general, but he is yet to offer any policy changes.
Shelter directors and agency officials are more than aware that this year’s budget considerations do not include the strategic planning that everyone is working toward. Many challenges remain, but the sooner officials move beyond bickering, the more quickly they can move toward an intake system that combines the strengths of data-driven centralized access with an open “no wrong door” policy that enables those who need help to find it anywhere.
Up to 1,000 people in Toledo are homeless at any given time — and as many as 3,000 at some point during the year. They need, and deserve, better.