(Photo by Flickr user nevermindtheend, used under a Creative Commons license)
Homeless shelters are not going away any time soon, but the federal dollars those shelters rely on are slowly disappearing.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia nabbed a massive $36 million in HUD grants earlier this year. Huh?
Here’s why Philadelphia was exempt from the HUD funding woes currently experienced by many cities across the country: Ever since the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition Housing (HEARTH) Act of 2009, the federal government has adopted the concept of homelessness as something that should be brief and non-recurring. Instead of funding shelters, HUD is more interested in supporting a “housing first” method of alleviating homelessness.
“If you look at our system from an historical perspective, we have been growing the supply of rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing and housing first, which is why the City has been competitive in HUD funding rounds,” said Office of Supportive Housing Director Liz Hersh.
Other cities like Baltimore, Honolulu and Miami-Dade county in Florida haven’t been nearly as quick to catch up to HUD standards. It’s not only costing them federal dollars, but it’s costing the residents of those shelters very basic amenities.
As for shelters in Philadelphia? Hersh said they rely on city funds and private donations.
“This doesn’t mean that we want to, can or will eliminate shelters. We simply don’t have the affordable housing resources to do that,” she said. “We need an emergency care system in place. But the goal is to make shelters a way-station when all else fails from which people pivot and turn.”
That, Hersh said, will take time, thought, planning and involvement from all stakeholders.
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