When my story about homeless program funding ran Friday, I mentioned that the city asked the Housing Commission to dip into its reserves for the $445,000 needed to run the winter shelter program this year. Officials, including the city’s land use czar, Jim Waring, say this is the last year that will happen.
But I didn’t have a chance in the story to explain why the Housing Commission had to dip into the reserves. Here’s what I’ve gathered about what happened.
This was the first year in a decade that the Housing Commission excluded funding for the winter shelter program when it presented its budget to the City Council in May, allotting its resources instead to transitional and permanent housing programs. But because the city would likely be unable to find alternative funding for the winter shelter program in time for this winter, the commission made a plan with the Centre City Development Corp.
The plan was that CCDC would “buy” a loan the commission had lent to a single-residency occupancy hotel in downtown called Hotel Metro. (SROs are often used for transitional housing for people coming out of rehabilitation programs.)
That loan, for about $800,000, would free up money for the Housing Commission to fund the shelter program for about two years. Dale Royal, senior project manager for CCDC, said the corporation is restricted from using redevelopment dollars to directly fund homeless services or operations. He said the loan-takeover plan is one idea CCDC has come up with to help with the funding issues.
But because of delays at CCDC in drafting a plan for necessary improvements to the Hotel Metro, the loan swap hasn’t taken place, and the Housing Commission agreed recently to use its reserves for the winter program, which started last week.
Morris said she was disappointed that the plan didn’t materialize in time.
“We were willing to use our reserves this year with the understanding that the mayor, the council and others will find another solution for next year,” said Elizabeth Morris, president of the Housing Commission.
“We see it as in the city’s best interests to make sure that the homeless persons have access to proper housing and services,” Royal said. “It’s good, obviously, for the homeless population, but it’s also good for businesses and downtown residents. Homelessness is one of the top concerns for potential investors in downtown.”