Toledo City Council members today continued to debate a way to help fund some homeless shelters facing potential cuts.
The city’s Department of Neighborhoods recommended in April cutting all federal Community Development Block Grant funds to several shelters and transitional housing agencies, including the Aurora Project, Beach House, Bethany House, La Posada, Harbor House and Family House in the approaching fiscal year that starts July 1. The funds in past years have been a source of tens of thousands of dollars for those service providers.
Several competing proposals that would restore some funds to the shelters are on the table. The ideas were debated at a neighborhoods committee meeting today in council chambers; none of the proposals appeared to emerge as a front-runner. The proposals include:
• A 3 percent across the board reduction for all agencies receiving CDBG funds. This measure, proposed by Councilman Paul Hicks-Hudson, would be the fairest way to distribute the funds in light of the 3 percent reduction in funding from the federal government, she said.
• Cut block-grant funds by 10 percent to other agencies in order to restore money to the shelters, an ordinance put forth by Councilman D. Michael Collins. He said his proposal would fairly “share the pain” of cuts while keeping the vital services shelters provide.
• Take $103,797 from a contingency fund in the city’s capital improvement program to help shelters restore half of the funding that was lost, without taking CDGB funds proposed for other agencies. This proposal, from Council President Joe McNamara wouldn’t unfairly affect other agencies, he said. Mr. McNamara’s proposal appears to have the support of the administration, as both Department of Neighborhoods Director Lourdes Santiago and Deputy Mayor Tom Crothers said it makes the most sense as it doesn’t affect other agencies receiving CDBG funds and preserves the spirit of the recommendations made by the citizens’ review panel that helps shape the funding recommendations put forth by the city.
City officials have emphasized that the proposed changes are part of a national shift to stable housing and preventing homelessness instead of focusing on shelters. The block-grant money — $6.8 million this year that officials say is substantially lower than past years — also is used to rehabilitate or demolish rundown homes, fund community development groups, and assist soup kitchens and food banks that provide direct services to the poor.
A number of agencies that receive such funds, which are administered by the federal government to the city to be distributed, spoke to tell council members the importance of the dollars they receive.
Some expressed frustration with the process.
“There is no such thing as a fair, across the board cut,” said Donni Miller, CEO of Neighborhood Health Association. For agencies like hers and others, “this process is undignified and torturous,” she said.
Representative also spoke from United North, the UpTown Association, the Fair Housing Center, Legal Aid of Western Ohio and other groups.
The meeting ended without the committee making a recommendation on legislation.
“There’s no clear consensus, but that’s why you vote,” said Mr. McNamara.
Ms. Hicks-Hudson said she did not anticipate a decision before the July 3 council meeting.
Contact Kate Giammarise at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6091.