Housing fund cuts will add 4,000 to state's homeless, officials say
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Cuts to the Missouri Housing Trust Fund will drive up the state's homeless by as many as 4,000 next year -- many of them children -- as well as throw up a major hurdle for poorer families across the state trying to make sure they don't join their ranks, officials said Wednesday.
A public hearing hosted by the Missouri Housing Development Commission in Cape Girardeau drew one person and served as a forum to answer questions about the cuts.
The one person who braved through tornado warnings said the news was grim.
"I am deeply concerned," said Roy Jones, housing coordinator at the Cape Girardeau Community Caring Council. "I and the other providers that I have talked to across the state were shocked and amazed" that the cuts were made.
In years past, the commission has awarded about $4 million to 84 programs across the state, including local agencies like the Salvation Army, the East Missouri Action Agency and the Community Caring Council. But the legislature's conference committee approved only $2.2 million for next year.
The fund was created by lawmakers in 1994 to help meet the housing needs of low-income families and individuals. The money is collected by $3 in recording fees on all real estate documents filed in the state. The commission administers the trust fund, which provides money each year for programs intended to provide homeless prevention, rehab or new construction of rental housing, rental assistance or home repair.
Locally, the caring council's program paid $300 rental deposits for 164 Cape Girardeau County families with the $64,000 the council received from the trust fund last year. But this year's amount could be cut by about half, said Heather Bradley-Geary, the commission's community initiatives manager. Other agencies across the state could see similar cuts, she said.
Jones said he is disappointed and worried about how some of the area's low-income families will come up with deposits. They receive more than 300 applications each year, he said. The caring council whittles that number down based on requirements that stipulate that rent not exceed more than 30 percent of a family's income. Such income can include child support, Social Security, welfare or salary, Jones said. The money from the trust fund is the program's only funding source. They deal largely with residents who make 50 percent of the county's median income.
"If the pie is smaller, most of us will get less for meeting the needs of people who need help," Jones said. "Especially in light of all the flooding we've seen lately, it could be bad. These are the people who will be coming to us for help. This is so unacceptable."
A study shows that the loss in funding would add 4,000 to the state's 24,000 estimated homeless now, Bradley-Geary said. Of the 24,000, 13,000 are children with the average age of 8, she said.
"It's detrimental," she said.
Jefferson City, MO
3352 William St., Cape Girardeau MO