HUD grants for homeless programs totals about $1.8M

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Local groups that assist the homeless with housing and case management received a nearly 98 percent renewal rate in federal grant funding for 2014. (Image: The Winston-Salem Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Local groups that assist the homeless with housing and case management received a nearly 98 percent renewal rate in federal grant funding for 2014, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

The funding comes from the Continuum of Care initiative by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development. Altogether, almost $1.6 billion was provided nationally, including $18.1 million in North Carolina.

There were 22 local grants awarded for a combined total of $1.78 million. The amount is about 2 percent below the $1.83 million provided in the 2012-13 cycle. There were no new projects financed for the current cycle.

The grants support street outreach, client assessment and direct housing assistance to individuals and families with children who are experiencing homelessness. Other services include job training, health care, mental health counseling, substance-abuse treatment and child care.

United Way of Forsyth County, Goodwill Industries of Northwest N.C. and Housing Authority of Winston-Salem gained the most financing at $434,380 for two projects geared toward quickly providing new housing for the homeless.

CenterPoint Human Services received $322,554 for four programs that provide rental assistance for disabled individuals who are homeless.

“We were very pleased that we received the requested funds for most of the grants,” said Ritchie Brooks, director of the city’s Community and Business Development Department. “The grants will help our agencies to quickly re-house those who become homeless.

“The goal is to get people back into housing as soon as possible after they become homeless, ideally in less than 30 days. At this time, it is taking longer. Feedback from agencies indicates that landlords need time to adjust to the idea of accepting clients with short-term rapid re-housing rental assistance of three to six months.”

Brooks said another hurdle is that rental units must pass an inspection.

“If the unit fails, it takes time for the problem to be corrected or for the person seeking housing to find another housing unit,’ Brooks said. “As the pool of willing landlords with standard units grows, re-housing will become more rapid.”

Brooks said the standard criteria to qualify for assistance for rapid re-housing is to have an income of no more than 30 percent of the area median income, which is $11,900 for an individual and $17,000 for a household of four. They have to be considered as homeless by HUD’s definition and to have no income, assets or support to obtain housing without the rapid re-housing assistance.

“HUD’s definition of homelessness for the rapid re-housing program includes those who are staying in shelters, living on the streets or are homeless due to domestic violence,” Brooks said.

“Program staff also performs an extensive social support and risk assessment of each applicant for assistance. Those who have family or friends with whom they can live are expected to do so.”

HUD chose not to renew $44,120 in financing for the program Project HOPE, operated by Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. The program assisted homeless families with children in the school system. The district said it had 138 children in the program during the 2012-13 school year.

“For more than 15 years the district and Project HOPE have been appreciative of the opportunity to partner with the city on the HUD grant,” said Kenneth Simington, the assistant superintendent of instructional and student services for schools. “We’re disappointed that we will no longer receive this funding, but we look forward to continued partnership with the city and the continuum of care service providers to support homeless students and their families.”

Brooks expressed disappointment that Project HOPE financing was not renewed, calling it a “model project for its type in North Carolina.”

“HUD gave lower priority to such ‘supportive services only’ projects, which do not provide shelter or housing,” Brooks said. “We certainly hope that Project HOPE can be supported in the community.”

The Winston-Salem City Council and the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in 2006 that’s known as the 10-year plan to tackle chronic homelessness. That is defined as someone with a disability who has been without a home for a year, or who has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.

Other agencies involved in the local effort are AIDS Care Service, Bethesda Center, Experiment in Self-Reliance, Family Services, Next Step Ministries, Samaritan Ministries and the Salvation Army.

Greensboro and High Point received $1.58 million for 11 projects, the largest being $508,067 for Housing Opportunities. Northwest North Carolina counties received $275,163 for eight projects.

Charlotte received $3.1 million for 12 projects, Durham received $686,577 for 12 projects and Raleigh received $2.39 million for 10 projects.