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June 09, 2016

Shelters Take Hit as Government Changes Strategy on Homeless

Organizations offering temporary and transitional services for the homeless face the loss of millions of dollars in federal aid as the government shifts grant money to programs that focus on permanent housing solutions, the Associated Press reports. In cities such as Miami, Baltimore, and Honolulu, shelters that long received Department of Housing and Urban Development grants are facing cuts that could eliminate hundreds of beds. 

Overall federal funding to combat homelessness is up, with HUD awarding nearly $2 billion for such programs this year, a $200 million increase. But the agency is changing criteria for grant applications, downgrading transitional services in favor of permanent housing and, for the first time, factoring in whether groups seeking money are working to fight local policies the administration says criminalize homelessness.

Data shows better long-term outcomes for programs that focus on permanent housing, said Norm Suchar, director special needs assistance programs at HUD. “We have a very difficult homelessness problem and not all the resources that you would want to have, so we prioritize,” he said.

HUD says it will help local groups relocate residents if the cutbacks force facilities to shut down, but shelter managers remain concerned. “The impact of this is just going to be unbelievably awful,” said Jon Berliner, executive director of Gregory House Programs in Hawaii, which has the country’s highest rate of homelessness.