Community

A drop in federal funding this year will lead to cuts in some homeless services across Louisville.

Each year, the Coalition for the Homeless appeals to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for funding to support various programming geared toward getting homeless residents off the street and into housing.

This upcoming year, they’ll have about $1.2 million less to support transitional housing services and case management programs, said Catherine McGeeney, director of development for the Coalition for the Homeless.

“These cuts are devastating and we will certainly see an impact,” she said.

Louisville will get a little more than $9 million from the federal government to support homeless programs, McGeeney said. But the loss of $1.2 million will mean “hundreds, if not thousands” of homeless residents will lose help needed to get on the path to permanent housing, she added.

Specifically, the cuts will impact transitional housing services for families, people with HIV/AIDS, young adults and domestic violence victims, McGeeney said. Case management services for people in shelters and on the street will also be reduced, she said.

The affected programs will be at the Center for Women and Families, Family Health Center, Home of the Innocents, House of Ruth, Louisville Metro Community Services, New Directions Housing Corporation, St. Vincent de Paul and Volunteers for America.

At St. Vincent de Paul, the cuts will likely lead to the elimination of at least two critical programs, said spokeswoman Linda Romine.

An addiction treatment program for men, which offered participants a temporary bunk while working to address their addiction, will be terminated, she said.

The loss of the program will be a blow to efforts of addressing alcohol and heroin addiction in Louisville, she noted.

“We were really making strides,” she said. “We’ve had great success in helping men in that program become sober and stable.”

The cuts will also lead to the shuttering of a dozen transitional housing units for families, Romine said.

The lack of funding available to get homeless families off the street and out of shelters into suitable transitional units is “a bitter pill,” Romine said.

“It’s a shame to have to lose this,” she said. “There’s a real lack of facilities for homeless families in Louisville.”

The cuts will begin taking effect this summer, McGeeney said.

So, what happened? Why is Louisville seeing fewer federal funds funnel into the city’s homeless support programs, after seeing such success in developing strategies to address homelessness among veterans?

McGeeney said there are a few reasons.

Firstly, funding falls short of demand in Louisville and other cities across the country, she said.

“The federal housing budget and the federal homeless programs budget have not grown as they should have,” she said.

Small budget increases on the federal level aren’t enough to account for spiking fair market rent rates in cities. For instance, in Louisville the fair market rent rate shot up 25 percent. That means the federal government has to increase funding for some programs by 25 percent, which is tough to do with a budget increasing by about 4 percent.

The general lack of funds is also leading federal lawmakers to adopt a narrower focus when it comes to allocating funding for homeless programs across the country.

Programs that prioritize permanent housing as the first option seem to be getting precedent over other programs focusing more on transitional housing services and individual case management, McGeeney said.

“Basically, what we’re seeing, that there’s not enough money and it’s being directed toward certain programs and the expense of other programs,” she said.

McGeeney said the cuts in Louisville are similar to other funding cuts for homeless services across the country.

The new direction from the federal government — more focus on permanent housing and less on transitional services — is a controversial topic within the homeless support community, McGeevey said. She likened the approach to “entering a new world” of homeless support.

She said Louisville’s transitional services are high performing and have been a key element in recent efforts to get nearly 400 veterans off the street and out of shelters into permanent housing units.

Losing those programs will be devastating, she stressed.

Natalie Harris, the executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, said while the cuts will be a hard hit, they are not a reflection on the work being done in Louisville.

“We are proud of the recent successes Louisville has had with reducing homelessness among veterans and overall,” she said in a news release.

In recent years, homelessness in Louisville has dipped about 23 percent.

The Coalition for the Homeless in Louisville will look to make up for the loss of federal funds through support from community leaders, private foundations and the public.

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.