Quick Relief For The Homeless?
Amendment Earmarks State Funding For Both ‘Rapid’ And Permanent Solutions
Posted: February 20, 2013
Mercy House resident Jennifer Ricketts makes lunch while watching her three children at the Harrisonburg shelter Tuesday. The General Assembly is discussing an amendment, co-sponsored by Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, to keep $1.5 million in the fiscal 2014 budget to advance programs to get homeless residents living on their own more quickly. (Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, is the co-sponsor of an amendment to add funding for permanent supportive housing — long-term units for people with mental and physical disabilities — and “rapid rehousing” efforts, which relocate the homeless from shelters within 60 days.
Hanger is a member of the joint Senate and House of Delegates committee working on the second year of the biennial budget this week. The General Assembly adjourns Saturday.
The $1.5 million for homeless programs was new funding in the fiscal 2013 budget, which runs through the end of June. It was not included in the second year of the budget.
A list of the committee’s approved amendments includes Hanger’s.
The amendment allots $1 million for permanent housing and $500,000 for the rapid rehousing program to the Department of Housing and Community Development. The agency, which administers funding for localities, would have a $19.6 million budget for homeless housing assistance if the amendment survives.
Harrisonburg and Rockingham County do not have any permanent supportive housing developments, though a 30-unit project has been eyed for the city’s Northeast neighborhood.
Meanwhile, Virginia communities with long-term plans to end homelessness are “realigning” to offer rapid rehousing, said Michael Wong, executive director of the Harrisonburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
“The biggest challenge is access to resources,” he said.
Mercy House in Harrisonburg receives about $150,000 from the state to rehouse residents, and another $70,000 in federal funding, executive director Twila Lee said. The shelter’s budget is about $1.3 million.
Harrisonburg’s Salvation Army chapter applied for state funding, but was one of five army locations in Virginia that did not receive it — even though the commonwealth had a larger pool of money to distribute. That loss is costing the chapter $100,000 for the fiscal year. The chapter has a $750,000 annual operating budget. Capt. Duane Burleigh, who heads the Harrisonburg organization, said he is looking at funding from “all different sources” with the absence of state aid.
“Just because you apply doesn’t mean you’ll get it,” he said.
Homeless advocates say they are rallying support for the amendment because it earmarks money for specific programs that get people out of shelters more quickly, without taking funding from other areas.
Rudy Propst, chairman of HRHA’s board of directors, says that locally, an average of 170 people each night are homeless.
“We’re just trying to help and persuade lawmakers to support this [amendment],” he said.
Hanger could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or email@example.com