SARASOTA -- The Department of Housing and Urban Development released $1.6 billion in homeless housing and service programs grants to agencies across the country earlier this week. One local agency tallied more than $500,000 in funding so far.
Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness, which operates in the Manasota area as the primary umbrella agency that seeks funding for local agencies, received the money from HUD's Tier 1 Continuum of Care grants. According to Suncoast Executive Director Leslie Loveless, the CoC funding is the first round of grants that are awarded for existing programs. Suncoast applied for $1.2 million in grants and hopes are high that more funding will come in HUD's Tier 2 awards.
"This funding is primarily renewals for ongoing programs," said Loveless. "Most of the funding we received in Tier 1 will go to the agencies that applied through us."
The exceptions are the CoC Planning grant in the amount of $69,616. HUD set forth a system for agencies like Suncoast to lead the way in grant applications. The problem is HUD failed to fund the system, until now.
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"HUD finally realized that they set up this system and asked for a lead agency, but never provided the funding," said Loveless.
Suncoast also receives $74,575 for the CoC HMIS grant, which helps pay for Suncoast's homeless information database. Loveless said the funding supports the training of staff, software, licensing and to produce goal-oriented and production-related reports on homeless clients.
Manatee County agencies did not participate in this round of grant applications, according to Loveless. Christine Smith, Salvation Army of Manatee County Director of Community Development, said HUD's requirements are very specific and each agency has to determine their best opportunity when applying for grants. She said the Salvation Army received $41,000 through Suncoast in January via the Challenge Grant that covers initial costs to get chronically homeless families into permanent housing.
"We've established five families into homes since receiving the grant and by June will have five more," said Smith. "Not all grants are eligible because HUD's programs are very specific to a program or set of clients. The challenge grant is huge for families in our shelter or on the streets to find independent housing and we are thrilled to be a part of that. The problem for these families is that they may be able to make rent every month but don't have enough to cover the expensive start-up costs of first, last and security. That's what this grant funds."
Turning Points Executive Director Adell Erozer said the CoC grants would be nice, but it's more of an issue in finding Manatee County home providers that will agree to HUD's requirements of reduced rents.
"There are agencies that used to be eligible for those specific grants, but the problem is that HUD requires reasonable rent and rents are going up so high, that it's impossible," said Erozer. "There are a lot of strings attached to the CoC grants, so we couldn't find anyone in Manatee County that was willing to meet those requirements."
The remaining two grants will go directly to two Sarasota agencies that do meet the guidelines of the CoC grants. CASA San Jose, which will receive $80,778, is a Catholic-based organization that provides eight beds for chronically homeless people with disabilities and/or HIV. HUD defines chronically homeless as being homeless for more than a year.
"These people may or may not work, depending on their disability," said Loveless. "But the program does encourage them to engage with the community and to do useful things."
Communities Assisted & Support Living received $207,013. The organization provides 12 permanent beds for the chronically homeless with disabilities. Case managers work with the families or individuals to "get them stabilized and into job opportunities," she said.
Sarasota's Harvest House received $120,736 of Permanent Supportive Housing grant funds. Harvest House provides 60 beds for chronically homeless families and individuals.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.