County allocates unspent homeless prevention dollars

Contributing Writer

Unspent state homeless prevention and assistance program funds for the 2015-2017 biennium have been allocated by the Anoka County Board.

The board April 25 amended its contract with the Salvation Army increasing its contract maximum by $76,119.98 to $277,719.98 for Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program services, specifically direct assistance to homeless households through June 30.

The county board action came on the recommendation of its Human Services Committee as well as the Anoka County Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program and Heading Home Anoka Advisory Committee.

Back in July 2015, the county was awarded $550,000 for the 2015-2017 biennium by the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency and entered into two-year contracts with five sub-grantees to provide the services.

But changes were made last year to the county’s contracts with the local agencies because three of them were not able to use the grant dollars as anticipated in rapid rehousing activities, according to Jerry Pederson, county director of social services and behavioral health.

The rapid rehousing model of support assistance has three core elements – housing identification, financial and move-in assistance and case management and support services – and those requirements were not a good fit for the three agencies, who focused on specific areas, for example, mental health, rather than the general issue of homelessness, Pederson said.

At the same time last year, the board amended the contract it had with Emma B. Howe Family YMCA, Coon Rapids, for homeless prevention and assistance services to increase the amount from $168,000 to $187,937.40.

The remaining unspent funds were reallocated April 25 to the Salvation Army, one of the original sub-grantees, which serves households in preventing homelessness and offering one-time rental assistance and/or damage deposit to those who are currently homeless, according to Michele Reid, county housing program coordinator.

Through the contract amendment, the Salvation Army will be able to pay rent assistance and/or damage deposits for homeless singles and families through June 30, which is the end of the biennium, Reid told the county board.

“The Salvation Army has done a fabulous job,” said Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah, county board chairperson who chairs the human services committee.

According to Pederson, the county has applied to the MHFA for Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program dollars in the next biennium, 2017-2019, which starts July 1.

“We are awaiting notification,” Pederson said.