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More needs, lower funds plague homeless programs

COAST CITIES — With the announcement of this year’s federal grants for homeless assistance, San Diego County’s programs will soon need to determine how to offer services for the country’s third highest homeless population with fewer funds. 

The county has been awarded slightly more than $15 million for the 2012 fiscal year in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), according to an announcement made last month. The county could be awarded up to an additional $1.49 million in HUD grants, which will be determined this summer.

The money will fund 52 homeless housing programs that offer services ranging from job training, health care, childcare and substance abuse treatment. Among them, Carlsbad’s La Posada de Guadalupe shelter for homeless men and day laborers, will receive more than $200,000 from HUD to help cover its operational costs.

San Diego County currently has more than 10,000 homeless people on a single given night, according to the most recent HUD data. The county’s homeless population falls only below New York City and Los Angeles County.

Though the latest HUD grant is slightly more than the funds received the year before, many of the homeless agencies reduced their budgets to accommodate for reduced HUD funding amounts, according to Patricia Leslie.

Leslie is the facilitator of San Diego’s Continuum of Care, which represents the region’s homeless services organizations and applies for the county’s HUD funding.

“(The homeless assistance programs) had to commit to providing the same level of service as the prior grant — so do the same job with less funding. It means stretching resources farther,” she said.

Because of the way HUD funding is calculated, San Diego received only the seventeenth highest funding in the country, despite having the third largest homeless population.

The county is currently lobbying HUD for a more proportional amount of grants and updates to the formulas used in grant calculations.

Funds for many of the county’s mainstream housing programs from local government will be reduced due to sequestration. This will also decrease the matching funds that coordinate with local grants, causing “double the loss,” according to Leslie.

“As funds tighten, the programs and services have to decide how to manage the loss,” Leslie said.

Some programs may offer fewer openings for their services, while others may downsize, limit services, or close, she said.

With current funding, the county lacks about 3,000 places for people to live on a given night and the wait for affordable housing is about 60,000 names long and takes years, according to Leslie.

Because the funds were just recently announced, the county’s homeless agencies have yet to determine how they will manage their allocated funds.

“We are working to make changes to enhance our ability to respond in ways that assess and meet the new needs,” said Leslie.

“I believe that people in the San Diego region are up to the challenge, they are invested in a vibrant community, are creative, and understand the importance of solving homelessness,” she added.