Homeless programs get federal aid

Tuesday, January 8, 2008 | 7:08 p.m. CST; updated 3:46 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — Eighty-one Missouri programs that aid the homeless were awarded a total of $22.5 million to promote one of the president’s national goals — ending chronic homelessness. Three Columbia programs received a total of $420,224.

The Bush administration announced $1.5 billion nationwide in Continuum of Care grants to support homeless programs in December.

CoC grants, issued by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, offer transitional and permanent supportive housing to more than 168,000 homeless individuals and families in the United States, according to a news release from the department.

The Balance of State Continuum of Care Program, administered by the Missouri Housing Development Commission, received about $2 million to provide needed supportive housing in the state’s rural regions.

In Columbia, three local Balance of State programs received funding:

n Phoenix Programs Inc. received a one-year grant of $71,122 to renew its project for homeless people who lack the skills and resources necessary for a self-sufficient lifestyle.

n The Salvation Army received $37,450 to support Harbor House, which provides homeless people with emergency shelter, transitional lodging and food.

n Columbia Housing Authority received $311,652 to renew its supportive housing project for homeless individuals with disabilities and their families.

But these grants might not be enough to support all eligible aid receivers, or even to run some homeless programs in Columbia.

The Columbia Housing Authority, a member agency of the Columbia-Boone County Basic Needs Coalition, runs the Housing Assistance Program that offers homeless families housing subsidies. Eligible families pay a certain percentage of the rent, depending on their income.

Ron Schmidt, the Basic Needs Coalition coordinator, said the federal grant can only benefit about 42 families each month, but there are still lots of families in need on the waiting list, and the programs can’t afford to increase the number of monthly subsidy receivers.

The Salvation Army offers a range of services to people in need in Boone County. Services include a food pantry, shelter at Harbor House and case management services to help people get back on the road to self-sufficiency.

“The (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) money helps to pay for one and half full-time case managers. The other part-time case manager is paid by the Salvation Army. The grant is at the same level as previous years, but the salaries of the employees increase,” said Cyndy Chapman, the Salvation Army’s regional development director.

The remaining Continuum of Care funds budgeted for Missouri, about $20 million, will go to organizations that serve the areas of St. Charles, St. Louis county, St. Louis, St. Joseph, Kansas City, Joplin and Springfield.

One shelter in Columbia did not get federal support. St. Francis House has been providing shelter to homeless men since 1983 and helps homeless people who are not able to access other services because of mental and physical illness and other reasons.

Lana Jacobs of St. Francis House doesn’t think that more money can solve the entire problem of homelessness.

“We don’t accept the governmental support, which only benefits the programs, not homeless people,” said Jacobs, who said she has been dedicated to serving homeless people for 25 years. She said some programs only provide transitional housing and refuse to accept sick homeless people and those who have bad backgrounds.

Jacobs said St. Francis House lacked beds for the emergency shelter 15 years ago and still does now.

“Programs should be involved, designed and planned by homeless people themselves,” she said.

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