Every homeless program in Utah except one has been denied federal housing dollars, leaving programs more than $7 million short.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development issued denial letters to six Utah nonprofit organizations that provide services to the state's homeless population. Last year, HUD funded every Utah program.In all, 15 applications for services in Iron, Utah, Salt Lake and Davis counties were denied. The only Utah provider approved to receive money was Your Community Connection in Ogden, which applied for $406,280 in supportive services.
"It's a daunting challenge because of the amount of money," said Jeff St. Romaine, director of Volunteers of America, which provides homeless outreach and case management services. "You just wonder what happened."
Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, has written a letter to HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo asking the same question. In the Jan. 30 letter, Bennett said the "rapid evaporization" of the federal support has left him in "great distress."
For providers, many of whom have small staffs, trying to raise money in a piecemeal fashion is a daunting task. Many providers already raise money for other programs, and St. Romaine fears there won't be enough to go around.
"We're all jockeying and going to the same sources now," he said.
The Housing Authority of Utah County applied for $947,000 to purchase an apartment building for chronically mentally ill homeless people. Director Gene Carly said he was disappointed but not surprised by the denials, given the huge need for homeless service money across the country.
Utah and other Rocky Mountain states didn't fare well because of the large number of applicants and the limited pot of money nationally, said HUD spokeswoman Lois Tressler in the Denver regional office.
She said the Eastern and Western coastal states, because of their larger populations and recent and devastating national disasters, were determined to have a higher need for funds.
"This was not isolated for Utah, it was (the same) pretty much around the country," Tressler said. "It's a nationwide competition with limited money and a lot of applicants. There was a lot of need, and those who could demonstrate greater need got more points."
Providers were applying for three-year grants. In Salt Lake County alone, 4,478 people could be without services over that three-year period without the HUD money, St. Romaine said.
Three existing and one new program at the Salt Lake Community Shelter and Resource Center were denied funding. Director Maun Alston said she'll now go to private sources to keep the programs afloat.
Alston was especially devastated that Traveler's Aid didn't get the money it needed to purchase a fourplex for intensive services for chronically homeless families.
So she went to the Salt Lake Housing Authority - which has been getting decreasing HUD block grant funds for four years - to collaborate on the project. It will still begin April 1, but without the HUD money, Alston isn't sure how long the program will be sustainable.
Some programs, like Salt Lake City Housing Authority's transitional housing, have operated with HUD money for almost a decade. That program is currently helping 17 families and one single person with housing and case management. They work and go to school, but St. Romaine fears without the ongoing support made possible by the HUD money, the participants may lose all they have gained.
"We're going to have to get funds from the private sector," St. Romaine said. "This is the community's problem, and we want their help."