Organizations for the homeless get a boost

by Brandon Simes
Friday Jan 28, 2011

At least seven are receiving portions of the $20 million grant from HUD

At least seven organizations that do work to help the homeless are receiving their annual boost in funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

On Jan. 19, HUD announced $57.8 million would be going to local homeless assistance programs with $20 million headed to Boston. The grants are made possible through the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

"We’ve been fortunate to receive this money over the years," said Project Place’s executive director Suzanne Kenney of the near $120,000 the organization will be receiving. Project Place works with homeless adults to help them overcome their circumstances to live independently. Kenney said the money would allow them to run their employment and job-training program.

Also receiving funds is the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program. BHCHP provides access to the high quality health care to homeless men, women and children, and the $200,000 grant they receive will go hiring child resource specialists and paying the salaries of the psychologists overseeing them.

In the past few years, as HUD has focused more on getting homeless people into housing versus providing support services, funding levels for BHCHP has dropped, but executive director Bob Taube said the money they get is much appreciated. "The city has worked very hard to be able to continue to get HUD to support these services," said Taube, "and we’re grateful to get what we’re getting."

"We’re operating with good stability, meeting our budget and providing services," Taube added.

Casa Myrna Vazquez Inc., which fights to end domestic violence through intervention, prevention, and education will also get funds along with Hearth, which works to end elder homeless and has a house in the South End; Pine Street Inn, which runs transitional housing programs around the city, with their main emergency shelter in the South End; and the Latino Health Institute, whose main office is located at 96 Berkeley St.

Executive director of the Latino Health Institute, Robert Pomales, said his organization would use the money to help HIV positive homeless individuals find housing and to provide case management.

"Often, when someone is HIV positive and homeless, they encounter barriers," Pomales said, noting one of those barriers can be the acquisition of easy, consistent access to medicine. The near $337,000 HUD gives to LHI will help their clients surpass those barriers.

Citywide, other work is being done to help the homeless. In 2009, Mayor Menino announced a plan to eliminate long-term homeless, called Leading the Way III. Menino hopes to reduce, by the end of 2012, individual long-term homelessness from 569 (the number in 2009) to 0, and reduce family homelessness by 50% - to 685.

A recent press release from the city included results from the Dec. 6 Annual Homeless Census, during which volunteers, business and city leaders, and organizations walked the streets of Boston to count the number of people on the street, in shelters, and in domestic violence, transitional and treatment programs. The numbers showed that, at least in some areas, the plan was working.

The count showed a 4% decrease in the overall homeless count, and a 7% decrease in the number of individual homeless adults, since 2009. The number of unsheltered homeless adults also decreased by 29% to 182 individuals - the lowest figure for the count since 1997. The number of homeless families in motels decreased (45% to 163) and the number of homeless families decreased by 5% (to 1,343). The number of homeless adults in emergency shelters has increased by 4% (to 1,365).

The Mayor’s plan focuses on more than just bolstering emergency shelters. The real aim is to provide more permanent housing and supportive services - similar to HUD’s new focus. The strategy already seems to be working.

The Mayor’s Office reported 142 individuals who were homeless for an extended period of time were moved into permanent supportive housing last year. In addition, more than 600 families at risk of losing their homes were stabilized and another 100 homeless families were re-housed.

In the press release, Mayor Menino thanked HUD for the additional funds, which will help the city continue to meet its goals, especially during the cold winter.

"At a time of year when temperatures make it dangerous to be out in the cold for any length of time, we are reminded just how critical these funds are to our collective work on the issue of homelessness," he said.

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