Homeless shelters in pinch after losing grants

Posted at 5:33 PM, May 11, 2016

Hundreds of bay area families that are in the process of getting out of homelessness may face another setback.

The federal government is changing how it's awarding grant money to the agencies that help homeless families.

Several organizations in Polk and Hillsborough counties are now scrambling to make up the loss.

"I was almost sick to my stomach," said Maj. Connie Morris at the Salvation Army in Lakeland.

Morris said their Salvation Army stands to lose about $130,000 this year with the grant. It would pay for eight transitional apartments.

"Right now what we're trying to do is find other avenues of funding. If we can do that then we will continue to stay open. If we can't do that then we will have to close some of our doors," she said.

In all of Lakeland, homeless agencies are missing out on about a half million dollars in federal funds.

It's even worse in Hillsborough. Organizations there are trying to make up for $800,000 they are not getting.

Some are even indicating they may have to shutdown.

"I call it the second chance program," said Michelle Barron, who lives with her two grandchildren in one of the transitional apartments at the Salvation Army in Lakeland. "A lot of the things that we are able to do in this program, we may not get to do on our own."

Last fall, Barron nearly ended up on the street but got approved for a transitional apartment instead.

Now she lives comfortably, takes life and budget classes, and holds a full-time job so she can save when it comes time to move out on her own.

The United States department of Housing and Urban Development, known as HUD, says it's shifting its priority to so-called rapid re-housing programs instead of transitional housing.

Some studies say putting at-risk families in their own safe home right away may be more effective.

But in the short term, it doesn't help the hundreds of bay area families that may be in jeopardy of getting kicked out early from their temporary home.

"You will have a lot of families back on the streets with nowhere to stay," Barron said.