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HUD renews funds for homeless services

In a nation struggling to provide more affordable housing, the Department of Housing and Urban Development continues to acknowledge Durham’s fight to end homelessness.

HUD awarded $426,837 in renewed grant funding Dec. 20 to four homeless service providers within Durham’s Continuum of Care—a federal program that encourages coordinated efforts among local organization to reduce homelessness.

This funding represents roughly half of the total federal funding that will be granted to Durham in the next fiscal year, said Lloyd Schmeidler, a project manager for the city of Durham. HUD determines Durham’s annual eligibility for federal funding by using a formula that measures the demonstrated need of the homeless community, the effectiveness of local service providers and either private or public monetary support from the community.

Ryan Fehrman, executive director of local shelter Genesis Home, said organizations know how much money they will receive only after Durham’s need is measured against the national demand. This year, HUD granted $1.47 billion in renewed funding to more than 7,100 homeless programs nationally.

He added that Genesis Home met or exceeded HUD’s standards in every category of measurement for funding.

“The federal government is relying on us to tell them what the need is, and we do our best to identify how many homeless people we have and communicate that to HUD,” Schmeidler said.

Reginald Johnson, interim director of Durham’s Community Development Department, is responsible for organizing the city’s various housing assistance programs. He said the federal government is crucial to the support of the homeless community.

“One big role they play is financial,” Johnson said, noting that homelessness is a both a regional and national concern. “The federal government also affects nationwide policy in support of those who are homeless.”

The federal funds allotted to Durham will go toward transitional housing programs, which target individuals who are homeless for a short period of time, as well as permanent supportive housing programs, which make long-term housing available for individuals deemed chronically homeless.

‘Tug of war’

The renewed federal grants largely support permanent supportive housing programs that aim to curb chronic homelessness in particular.

Terry Allebaugh, executive director for Housing for New Hope, said the $45,911 given to his organization will go toward a 20 unit project of permanent supportive housing on North Elizabeth Street made available to chronically homeless individuals. Although chronically homeless people often make up 10 to 20 percent of the total transient population, research shows that they use more than 50 percent of total funds allotted to homeless programs. Accordingly, HUD has continually funded programs like Housing for New Hope that maintain permanent supportive housing.

Allebaugh said the true value of federal funds lies in their ability to leverage private funds. According to HUD guidelines, for every federal dollar granted to a community, the community must match a certain percentage of funding. Matching policies such as HUD’s incentivize local communities to take an active role in supporting homeless services.

“When we apply for federal funding, we have to show private and public funding as well from the community,” Allebaugh said. “One dollar leverages another. It is not all the federal’s responsibility but rather both sectors working together to making these programs sustainable.”

HUD also awarded Genesis Home $175,000 of funding for its Family Matters Program, which provides transitional housing for homeless families. With HUD funds representing roughly a third of the program’s total operating costs, Fehrman said Genesis Home recalibrates its budget annually based on how much federal funding becomes available.

“We are playing a game of tug of war from the federal government,” Fehrman said. “I absolutely do not think it is the responsibility for the federal government to pay for everything, but I do think that the government does have a responsibility to help those who are in need, especially when those who are in need are children.”

‘Next to impossible’

With discussions on a national level leaning toward decreasing spending on programs such as the Continuum of Care, Ferhman said Genesis Home has been working to reduce its reliance on public funding since he joined the organization in 2005. Reaching out to local businesses, the faith community and other private entities, Genesis Home has roughly reduced the share of their budget coming from public dollars from 60 percent in 2005 to 45 percent currently.

Fehrman added that given the state of the economy, other causes in the community are steep competition in raising funds for homelessness.

“We are competing with causes for animals, seniors and even the arts,” Fehrman said. “But when times are tough, we should be investing in basic needs.”

Despite local efforts to reduce dependence on federal funds, Allebaugh said that without federal assistance, certain projects run by Housing for New Hope would cease to exist. A majority of people living in Housing for New Hope’s permanent supportive housing rely on a disability check of about $674 per month in order to live. With only 30 percent of that check going toward rent, Allebaugh said federal assistance is needed to maintain the program’s operating costs.

“The federal funds don’t take care of everything, but they do provide a very solid base,” he said. “Without HUD funding, we can’t support [the program.] If that partner pulls out, it becomes next to impossible to make it happen.”

In addition to the funding made available through renewed grants, Schmeidler said roughly $475,000 from the federal government will go toward two new projects by the Durham Housing Authority and Housing for New Hope. The projects will provide 30 new units of permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals in Durham.

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