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Published: Tuesday, 3/18/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

Federal money for homeless shelters drops

Local organizations say they need increases after years of cuts

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The city of Toledo expects less federal grant money that can be used for community service agencies like homeless shelters, but many of those same organizations have asked for increased funding.

Toledo Neighborhoods Director Tom Kroma told council's neighborhoods committee Tuesday the city should brace for nearly 2 percent less than the $7 million Community Development Block Grant funding received last year.

The city received $498,959 last year from the federal Emergency Solutions Grant and $1.63 million from the HOME Investment Partnerships Program.

“We should know in about two weeks what we will get,” Mr. Kroma said.

Meanwhile, several homeless shelter operators told council Tuesday they needed more money, not less.

The funding process for homeless shelters — which includes a lengthy application process ending with the city allocating federal money — has been acrimonious and rancorous the past several years. It was a key issue several times during the mayoral campaign last year, when D. Michael Collins blasted former Mayor Mike Bell for lacking compassion on the issue.

St. Paul’s Community Center, a shelter near downtown for mentally ill men, received $20,500 last year from ESG and requested an increase to $68,000 this year. Its CDBG funding last year was $43,942 and it is now asking for $66,000.

Marcia Langenderfer, the center’s executive director, said she needs more money to hire a person to run its food program and operate its winter crisis program.

Councilman Jack Ford, chairman of council’s neighborhoods committee, asked what would happen should the shelter not get what was requested.

“It would be disastrous,” Ms. Langenderfer said.

Renee Palacios, director of Family House — a family shelter with 103 beds at 669 Indiana Ave. — said she has taken $100,000 cuts each of the past three years. More cuts would mean closing rooms used to house homeless families, she said.

Mr. Ford asked if families had been forced to walk to the Martin Luther King Kitchen for the Poor at 650 Vance St. during the extreme cold and heavy snow this winter.

“I hope you were not told to walk children to the kitchen,” Mr. Ford said.

“I was,” Ms. Palacios answered.

“I have a real problem with that,” Mr. Ford said.

Ms. Palacios later said she was given that directive by the Bell administration.

Family House received $94,170 from ESG last year and is requesting $213,251 this year. It is requesting less CDBG money this year. In 2013, it was awarded $64,166 but is only asking for $13,430 this year. Ms. Palacios said CDBG funding is restricted and can be used only for specific purposes.

Catholic Charities, which runs the homeless shelter La Posada, is among those seeking more money. It was awarded $21,013 in ESG money last year and is now asking for $38,500. It did not request CDBG money this year while last year it was given $10,611.

The YWCA Battered Women’s Shelter is seeking a slight increase in ESG from $22,289 last year to $25,000 this year.

Bethany House, which was not federally funded last year, is asking for $44,182 in CDBG money.

The funding requests from the homeless shelters are being reviewed by the city’s “citizen review committee” and the Collins administration. It includes all Toledo organizations seeking CDBG funding, not solely homeless shelters. For example, the Economic Opportunity Planning Association requested $451,000 in CDBG money, up from the $300,000 it received last year.

The East Toledo Family Center has received $14,019 each of the past three years. It is asking for $54,000.

“We have many great and needed programs competing for a limited pool of funding that continues to decline each year,” Mr. Kroma wrote in a memo to council this month.

Mayor D. Michael Collins said he was pleased the shelter directors were called to speak before council Tuesday. “We have no idea what is going to be provided in CDBG and ESG and that is going to be the barometer on how funds are disbursed,” the mayor said.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.



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