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Homeless couple speak out for continued aid to shelters

Neighborhoods Dept. plan for cuts to go to council panel

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    Sheila and Thomas Clark say they are grateful for the services of Family House, which stands to lose about 10 percent of its budget. Mr. Clark said the shelter turned the couple around after he lost his job.

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  • Rene-Palacios

Sheila and Thomas Clark say they are grateful for the services of Family House, which stands to lose about 10 percent of its budget. Mr. Clark said the shelter turned the couple around after he lost his job.

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Thomas and Sheila Clark's road to Family House, an emergency shelter in central Toledo, began several years ago.

Mr. Clark lost his job as a home health aide for a handicapped adult. "The bottom just dropped out," Mr. Clark said, describing his and his wife's descent to living in a shelter.

Added his wife, "We feel very fortunate that Family House was able to accept us. We've never been through anything like this."

It is people like the Clarks who will be affected if several Toledo emergency shelters and transitional housing agencies must close or slash their services.

Yet voices like theirs have not been heard much amid the recent funding controversy among city officials, shelter directors, and leaders from the Toledo Lucas County Homelessness Board.

In April, several shelters and transitional housing agencies learned they were not recommended to receive federal Community Development Block Grant funds distributed through the city's Department of Neighborhoods, long a source of tens of thousands of dollars for local shelters.


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They received another blow recently when they learned they would receive a small increase in funds from another source — the federal Emergency Solutions grant — but not enough to offset the lost block-grant funds.

The Clarks' temporary home, Family House, stands to lose about $85,000 — about 10 percent of its $800,000 budget — for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. Aurora House, which provides transitional housing to chemically dependent women and their children faces about a $70,000 net loss; Bethany House, which assists women escaping from domestic violence, could be funded at $39,400 less than last fiscal year. La Posada, a family shelter run by Catholic Charities faces about a $5,000 reduction.

The proposed funding changes are subject to approval by Toledo City Council. A neighborhoods committee meeting to discuss the funding is scheduled for today with a possible council vote as early as next week.

Renee Palacios, executive director of Family House, said she is unsure how loss of funds could affect her agency.

"Services get cut," said Ms. Palacios. "We don't 100 percent know exactly what that will look like." Family House is the largest family shelter in northwest Ohio; it is the second-largest family shelter in the state. Of the 137 emergency shelter beds in Toledo available to families, 90 are at Family House, a large structure on Indiana Avenue whose brown tiles hint of its past use as a YMCA.

"My question to the city of Toledo is: What is your contingency plan?" Ms. Palacios said.

Lourdes Santiago, director of the city's Department of Neighborhoods, said shelters "will have to adjust their budgets" accordingly if council approves the changes the department has recommended.

She said the goal is to eliminate homelessness, which she said some shelters are "resisting." She added, "We need shelters. But that should not be our goal, to shelter people. Our goal should be to end homelessness" through prevention and rapid rehousing, she said — which is the shift supported by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development.

The city is not the only source of funding available, Ms. Santiago emphasized.

Some say that although HUD does want more emphasis on rapid re-housing, other communities are making this transition more smoothly.

"Those changes in most communities are just a matter of retooling and not a matter of significant changes to some organizations' budgets," said Bill Faith, executive director of the Columbus-based Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio."This is a problem of Toledo's making," Mr. Faith stated. "It has nothing to do with HUD."

A letter to city council signed by directors of the hardest-hit agencies, stated they had been recipients of block-grant funds for more than 20 years and felt "dismayed by the lack of communication and coordination" in the block-grant application process.

They are asking the city to reinstate their funds or work with them to find alternative funds.

It's not clear if city council will agree with the shelters or the city's recommendation; several council members did not return calls Tuesday.

The Clarks hope to relocate to housing soon, with the assistance of a program through Family Outreach Community United Services, an interfaith agency that offers transitional and permanent housing.

Mr. Clark is one of several Family House residents who have called or emailed council members to give their viewpoints. He said he was encouraged to receive a call back from councilman Joe McNamara and was pleased to see the councilman had a knowledge and understanding of Family House.

"This is not a shelter that just provides food, clothing, the basic necessities. … It takes a couple that are at a complete loss and turns them around," said Mr. Clark.

Contact Kate Giammarise at: or 419-724-6091.

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