Three local agencies that house the homeless are scrambling to determine how to continue housing men, women, and children after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) cut funding for transitional housing programs across the country.
The Salvation Army's Renewal Place, the YWCA's Memphis Family Shelter, and the Cocaine Alcohol Awareness Program's (CAAP) temporary men's shelter were denied HUD's Continuum of Care (CoC) program funds earlier this month due to a federal policy shift in favoring permanent supportive housing over transitional housing.
Renewal Place offers temporary housing to women with drug and alcohol programs, and it allows them to keep their children with them. The Memphis Family Shelter offers short-term housing to homeless families, and the CAAP program temporarily houses men with drug and alcohol problems.
Transitional housing provides temporary housing — often 12 to 24 months — for the homeless while the permanent supportive housing model helps place the homeless into permanent homes and also pairs them with services, such as mental health or medical care.
"The emphasis on permanent housing over transitional has been going on [locally] for a few years now. Back in 2011, when Mayor A C Wharton's Homeless Action Plan was set up, the goal was to reduce transitional housing [in the city] by 50 percent," said Cheré Bradshaw, the executive director of Community Alliance for the Homeless.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness has called this year's HUD Continuum of Care funding process "the most competitive funding process since the CoC was first created." And while three local transitional programs did lose funding, the city still received $6.7 million from HUD to renew 25 other programs (mostly permanent supportive housing) and to create two new permanent housing programs. One of those is Catholic Charities of West Tennessee Genesis House, and the other is through Door of Hope.
But the new funds don't offer much solace to those trying to keep the doors open on the three programs that faced cuts. Barbara Tillery, the director of social services at the Salvation Army, said the $290,000 that HUD cut was Renewal Place's sole source of funding. Renewal Place can house up to 15 women and 30 children.
"We lost all the funding, so we're going to have to find other ways to raise money. Closing the doors is just not an option for these families," Tillery said. "This is the only program in the city for women who are seeking treatment for drugs and alcohol that allows them to bring their children with them."
The YWCA Memphis Family Shelter houses 16 families — women and children — but they don't have to have substance abuse programs to qualify. YWCA Executive Director Jackie Williams said the $198,000 cut by HUD ran out at the end of April, and she's unsure what the agency will do.
"Our families are still in there, and we're not sure what to do. But it's a critical need, and we're asking for volunteers who want to come in and coordinate something with us," Williams said.
Albert Richardson, executive director of CAAP, couldn't be reached by press time.
Bradshaw said the Community Alliance will be working with the programs that were cut from HUD's budget to help them determine how to move forward.
"We're very sad to lose programs, but we're going to do all we can to try and help them keep those programs, whether that means changing them or reworking them," Bradshaw said.
And while she said she regrets the loss of funding for those programs, Bradshaw said the new funding for permanent supportive housing may fill in some of the gaps. Genesis House will add 65 new permanent units, and Door of Hope is adding 25 units, thanks to the HUD CoC funds.
Said Bradshaw: "We have these new units, and we should be able to house more people."