“Our community is devastated by these cuts,” Natalie Harris, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, said in a statement. “Families fleeing domestic violence, young adults assisted to get off the streets and many others now in transitional housing programs across our city will lose their housing, and others in the future will not receive this important assistance.”
Local organizations had expected about $10.2 million in total federal help through the Louisville Metro Continuum of Care this year, but they received notice from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last week that they lost about $1.1 million in renewal funding. Specifically, that money goes to transitional housing for families, people with HIV/AIDS, domestic violence victims and to provide case management for homeless people sleeping in emergency shelters or on the streets.
HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan said local officials were told that the federal government was moving away from certain types of projects. He said that shouldn’t deter Louisville homeless advocates from coming up with their own responses to local needs.
“There’s been since 2010 a movement away from transitional housing projects,” Sullivan said. “Everybody’s been talking about this for quite some time.”
There were two tiers of HUD grants awarded this year with about 85 percent going toward top priority projects in March that local officials listed. Sullivan said Louisville received about $9.2 million in total grants last year compared to around $9 million this year.
The cuts come four months after the coalition reported a 57 percent increase in Louisville’s homeless count, which local officials had hoped would mean more being handed down from the federal government for emergency shelter programs, permanent housing projects and other grants.
“For a while now, we’ve known transitional housing is not a priority of HUD, so we knew it was coming,” said Tamara Reif, vice president of programs at the Center for Women and Families. “But what was not expected was how soon and without any preparation.”
Reif told the CJ the center is serving about nine families through its transitional housing program at its western Louisville location. That provides a place to stay for domestic violence victims who are no longer in need of an emergency shelter. She said the HUD cuts are a huge blow for all Louisville agencies that serve vulnerable clients.
“We are now at a point of having some tough conversations of whether that will continue and what we as an agency will do around this decision,” Reif said. “We have nine families who live in our building and how we’re going to continue to support those families is going to be a challenge.”
Harris said local service providers are working with community leaders and private donors now to piece together additional resources. “And we need the community’s help,” she said.
The coalition said HUD’s decision underscores a need for finding local funding sources for those local programs to supplement dwindling and limited federal funds. It is challenging residents to volunteer at one of its facilities or contribute $5 to a local homeless services agency.
Harris said the coalition is also urging every resident to contact U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth’s office about the importance of maintaining federal funding for homeless services. A Yarmuth spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The coalition said it has partnered with Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration and other community groups toward lowering Louisville’s homelessness by 23 percent over the past four years, in large part because of innovative and collaborative initiatives across the community. Last year, for instance, the coalition was part of a collaborative that reached a functional zero for veteran homelessness in the city.
Reporter Phillip M. Bailey can be reached at (502) 582-4475 or firstname.lastname@example.org.