Sunday, July 17, 2016

Upstate NY Housing Authority Fumbles Away $5.1 Million Of Free Federal Cash Earmarked For Rent Subsidy Vouchers For Homeless Suffering From Mental Illness, Substance Abuse, Etc.; Unspent Grants Get Forfeited Back To HUD, Which Then Added Insult To Injury By Slashing Program's Annual Budget By Nearly 75%

In Syracuse, New York, syracuse.com reports:
  • The Syracuse Housing Authority failed to spend $5 million in federal grants that could have provided housing for up to 200 homeless people with mental illnesses, addictions or other disabilities.

    The housing authority returned $5.1 million in unspent grants from 2010 to 2015 – about $1 million per year -- to the consternation of city officials and homelessness prevention advocates.

    The lost money would be enough to move 200 people out of shelters and into permanent housing, according to data from the Housing and Homeless Coalition of Central New York. That would cut the local homeless population nearly in half.

    Syracuse Housing Authority officials say their ability to use the so-called Shelter Plus Care grants has been hampered because homeless shelters don't refer enough people to the program. Others say the housing authority is ill-equipped to work with homeless clients who need support services in addition to housing.

    Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and leaders from the homeless coalition have urged the housing authority to make better use of the grants.

    Paul Driscoll, the city's commissioner of neighborhood and business development, said he does not blame the housing authority for struggling to administer the program, which requires coordination with outside service agencies. But Driscoll said the problems must get fixed.

    "It is inexcusable to send money back to HUD when the need exists in this town," Driscoll said.

    There will be less money at stake in the future. Last month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development slashed the housing authority's annual Shelter Plus Care funding from $2.6 million to $687,000.
    ***
    Shelter Plus Care is a small part of the operation of the housing authority, which owns 15 apartment complexes with more than 2,500 units and distributes housing vouchers to more than 3,300 other households.

    The housing authority does a good job managing housing-only voucher programs such as Section 8, Driscoll said. But the authority has struggled with Shelter Plus Care because of the requirement to coordinate with outside service agencies who provide the "care'' element, he said.

    Mental illness and substance abuse, the most common disabilities targeted by Shelter Plus Care, are common factors in chronic homelessness, experts say.
    ***
    The inability to coordinate support services internally has limited the housing authority's capacity to approve people for Shelter Plus Care vouchers.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home