Funding to help Anoka County’s homeless falls short

Anoka County has received less than half the two-year grant it had sought through the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency’s family homeless prevention and assistance program.

The state agency has awarded the county $330,000 for its homeless prevention program for 2013-2015.

The county had requested $715,000, which was a 30 percent increase over the amount that the county received for the program in the last biennium (2011-2013), according to Karen Skepper, county director of community and government relations.

“We are very disappointed,” Skepper said.

Skepper was told that the bulk of the housing finance agency’s funding allocation for the biennium from the Minnesota Legislature went to the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, she said.

The need for homeless prevention funding for the county has not diminished, Skepper said.

The annual homeless count, specific to each county in the Twin Cities area, that took place in January showed that the number of homeless families in Anoka County was higher than it was at the same time in 2012, according to Skepper.

“The purpose of the request for increased funding was to expand our existing programs to help families and individuals in the county who are homeless or at risk for it,” Skepper said.

Now the county has to come up with a revised work plan to pare back funding it had hoped to allocate to its homeless prevention program.

A meeting of the county’s Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program Advisory Committee, which is required by state statute and appointed by the Anoka County Board, was scheduled to take place this week to consider a new work plan, Skepper said.

The state agency homeless prevention dollars are used for direct assistance from the county’s economic assistance department and by five community service agencies with which the county contracts.

Those partners are Alexandra House, Community Emergency Assistance Program, Rise, Inc., Stepping Stone Emergency Housing and the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities.

At this point, the county will likely to continue to contract for homeless prevention services from these five agencies, but there will be fewer dollars than had been anticipated, according to Skepper.

How that money is distributed will be the committee’s decision, Skepper said.

In the grant application Skepper submitted to Minnesota Finance Housing Agency, the county and its partners would have provided a full range of support services including outreach, case management, advocacy, information and referral, legal intervention, money management-budget counseling, independent living skills instruction, housing search assistance, crisis intervention and follow-up services as needed “to best stabilize participant households in permanent housing.”

In addition, the county program assists eligible households including single adults, families with children and youth who are experiencing homelessness or at-risk of becoming homeless; these households may include veterans, persons with mental illness, chemical dependency, HIV-AIDS, victims of domestic violence and the chronically homeless, Skepper wrote in the grant application.

Financial assistance for housing-related costs includes rent, rent subsidies, application fees, deposits, lot rent, mortgage payments, utilities, delinquent taxes and “other costs necessary to keep clients housed or to help them obtain housing,” she wrote.

According to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency website, the family homeless prevention and assistance program is designed to encourage and support innovation at the county or regional multi-county levels in both establishing a comprehensive service system and in redesigning the existing homeless support system.

Services are targeted for families, single adults and youth who are homeless or at the risk of becoming homeless, the website states.

Peter Bodley is at
[email protected]

  • blankAC

    Perhaps if the county actually cared enough to invest in homeless programs, this wouldn’t have been an issue. Why doesn’t anyone ask how much of the county’s money goes to fund homeless programs, what the commissioner and managers keep saying is important. Because the answer is $0. But hey, if it saves me $20 a year on my property taxes, it must be worth it, right?