Thursday, July 22, 2010

High Poverty Areas and HUD Funding

Local Cleveland Shelters Ask HUD for Additional Help

A diverse group of advocates and Cleveland area service providers are proposing that communities with a history of acute poverty have access to additional funding in accordance with the implementation of the HEARTH law. Advocates and social service providers have a concern that traditionally high poverty areas will be harmed by the new regulations, and will not be able to access the high performing community designation and any funds that accompany this designation. We have expressed our concerns with Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and have included that letter.

As set forth in the law, communities must meet certain performance guidelines in order to qualify for additional or bonus funding from HUD. Over the last ten years, the City of Cleveland/Cuyahoga County has been the recipient of these additional funds to strategically assist the continuum in better serving those experiencing homelessness. The additional funding has enabled us to increase housing capacity and maintain a high quality of service to a growing homeless population, while also establishing one or two new strategic housing programs per year.

As you know, the soon-to-be-implemented HEARTH Law will mandate that additional bonus HUD dollars may be allocated to those communities that attain “High Performing Community” status. In order to qualify for this designation the community must: decrease the length of homelessness by 10%, reduce recidivism to 5% a year, implement the use of HMIS in every program, reduce the number who become homeless, and include programs that serve youth and families. We are asking that a similar fund be established for High Poverty Communities of equal value to assist those communities experiencing the highest rates of distress in the United States.

We maintain that severely impoverished communities nationwide, like Cleveland, could have substantial difficulty in decreasing the length of homelessness, reducing recidivism, and/or reducing the number of individuals and families who become homeless. In Cleveland, again as with many communities, there are mitigating factors that will significantly compromise endeavors to attain the “High Performing Community” status as set forth by the HEARTH Law.

While we will make every effort to be a High Performing Community, in the event we are not able to achieve those goals, we believe that the poorest cities in the United States need additional support from HUD to continue to address the issue of homelessness caused by the loss of jobs and a reduction in the ability to secure housing. Communities, such as Cleveland, need additional resources to continue to provide quality care to homeless people in an already stressed system. We believe that in a time of long waiting lists for mental health and alcohol and drug services as well as overcrowded shelters, quality programs specifically designed to serve and reduce the homeless population will be forced to close because of the huge demand and significant competition for limited resources.

We propose that if a community meets four (4) of the ten (10) factors that demonstrate a history of acute poverty, and is chosen by the HUD Secretary through a similar selection process as outlined in the HEARTH legislation for a “High Performing Community,” they have access to a pool of resources to reduce homelessness. The ten (10) factors are as follows:

1. The community experiences a natural disaster of national significance as declared by FEMA (flooding, earthquake, etc) in the previous year.
2. If according to the American Community Survey/US Census, the community is consistently listed among the top 20 poorest big cities in the nation.
3. In any of the last three years, the community experienced a decrease of 20% or more in State mental health funding.
4. In any of the last three years, the community experienced a decrease of 20% or more in State alcohol/drug addiction funding.
5. The community’s annual unemployment rate increases by more than 10% from one year to the next.
6. The community experiences a 10% increase in the number of evictions from one year to the next.
7. The community experiences a 10% increase in the number of households delinquent on their mortgage or there is a 20% increase in the number of foreclosure filings in any of the last five years.
8. The community experiences a 10% increase in the number of individuals receiving food stamps from one year to the next measured over the last three years.
9. The community experiences a 5% increase in the number of indigent care cases at local hospitals within the Continuum from one year to the next in any of the previous five years.
10. The community experiences a 5% increase in the number of offenders returning from the prison system from one year to the next any time over the last five years.

Again, in keeping with these ten (10) mitigating factors, we propose that if a community is quantifiably assessed to present with at least four (4) of the above-mentioned items, it receive access to a similar level of funding as those communities designated as a “High Performing Community.”. We are proposing that a community be measured over the last five years, and if at least four (4) extenuating factors are found in any of those five years, HUD designate the community as a “High Poverty Area,” and offer access to additional funding. The community should be allowed to maintain dispensation from “High Performing Community” status for a period of no less than three (3) years into the future while they work through their poverty issues. Additionally, the community should be re-evaluated every year, as part of the application process, to determine progress toward reducing poverty and meeting HUD guidelines.

We are sending this ahead of the introduction of the HEARTH guidelines in hopes that these concepts are included in the draft. As those serving on the “front lines” to effectively meet the needs of the homeless population, we thank you for your time and consideration of this correspondence.

This letter sent to Congressman Dennis Kucinich and and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Assistant Secretary of Community Development. It was signed and written by the directors of the Salvation Army Harbor Light Complex, Y-Haven transitional shelter, LMM 2100 Lakeside shelter, Joseph's Home transitional shelter, New Life Community, and Transitional Housing Inc. along with NEOCH.

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