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Chicago homeless projects get Tier 2 Fed funds

Wed, Jul 3, 2013

After months of uncertainty, Jackie Edens can now breathe easy.As executive director of the Inner Voice, Edens almost saw the collapse of two of her housing and supportive services programs. This past March, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), jeopardized 28 projects in the Chicago Continuum of Care. This was due to a $3.6 million shortfall in this year’s federal funding for Chicago’s Plan 2.0 to End Homelessness.

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This year, projects in continuums throughout the country were split into two Tiers. Tier 1 programs were fully funded to the tune of $1.5 billion by HUD in March, with $49 million being pumped directly into these Chicago programs. Because of a $200 million shortfall, Tier 2 was in danger of being cut entirely.

“We’re ecstatic for Inner Voice and for every homeless program in the country,” Edens said.

In light of the potential funding cuts, Tier 2 organizations had to make the risky decision of whether to float the money to cover those projects in hopes that HUD would fund them, or drop those projects entirely. Edens hoped that by funding her projects through private sources that she could keep them open and running.

“It’s a scary process, not knowing. You never really know,” Edens said. “If we didn’t get this funding, I couldn’t replace [the money]. No doubt. But, at the end of the day, you start to forget the pain and the good news is that you have two programs that are now healthy.”

Edens said that the congestion of funding was caused by a number of things such as sequestration, the difficult climate in Washington, partisan fighting, and competing and compelling demands on money.

Rev. Sanja Rickette, executive director of Matthew House, which supported another Tier 2 project, is also relieved.

“We would have had to conduct layoffs and cutbacks, so this money helps keep the program open for another year to help serve the homeless,” Rickette said. “Without this funding, we would not have been able to fund them at all.”

Matthew House has existed for 21 years and is the only supportive service provider on the South Side that is non-gender specific.

“Transitional Housing (TH) programs and Supportive Services Only (SSO) are the incubators where these men go in the daytime so they can pull things together. They can see a case manager, have two decent meals, access a doctor, a shower, get clean clothes, get out of inclement weather whether it’s hot or cold, go to a computer training center without going to the library and paying 10 cents a copy,” she told StreetWise in March.

Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness Senior Director of Program Development Kathleen Molnar said that the ranking system was designed according to average Evaluation Instrument scores over the last three years. These scores combined with the priorities of Plan 2.0, an even distribution geographically, and the project type composed the ranking system.

“So far HUD has not announced any funding for new projects so we don’t know if any of the bonus projects have been funded,” said Molnar. These bonus projects are listed at the bottom of the HUD rankings. “They plan to make the announcement on new project funding within 60 days of their last announcement, which means sometime before the Fourth of July.”

These bonus projects are permanent housing services that include Chicago housing and social services, housing opportunities for women, and single room housing.

By Torey Darin,
StreetWise Editorial Intern

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