WENATCHEE — Two emergency housing shelters — including one that’s still under construction — will not receive any money next year from the region’s largest source of public funds for the homeless.
The grant program is going through some changes that may shift funding priorities away from emergency housing to programs that help get very low income families into more stable housing.
The Wenatchee City Council last week approved the distribution of nearly $800,000 in funds generated primarily by court recording fees and supplemented by state grants. The city oversees distribution of the money for Chelan and Douglas counties.
The majority of the money will go to Community Action Council, Women’s Resource Center, Chelan County Regional Justice Center and Hospitality House Ministries programs for the homeless and very low income.
But next year the city will not fund two Lighthouse Ministries shelters, a Salvation Army program designed to keep people from becoming homeless, two shelters run by Mid-Point Place, and First United Methodist Church’s program to pay for emergency hotel stays.
The city is in the middle of updating its 10-year plan to reduce homelessness and may change the priorities for distributing the money after next year, based on goals set in the new plan. Automatic annual payments, which happened in past years, to service providers has stopped.
The new plan will place more emphasis on getting people out of emergency and transitional housing and into more permanent housing, said Monica Libbey, Wenatchee’s planning manager.
She said a community steering committee that recommends how the grant money should be spent believes emergency housing needs are being adequately met in the two counties. A greater need they see is affordable housing for the low income, she said.
Libbey said there is a very small supply of rental units at affordable rates for people with limited resources. The problem is exacerbated for people with criminal backgrounds, poor rental history and unpredictable finances. With high demand for rentals in general, landlords tend to choose people in better financial standing and with cleaner rental histories.
Community Action Council, $191,605, rental assistance and bus/laundry vouchers
Women’s Resource Center of NCW, $100,000 for Bruce Housing
Chelan County Regional Justice Center, $81,640, for the community recovery program
Community Action Council, $74,520, for operation and maintenance at Sunset Ridge and Crescent Village Apartments and rental assistance for special needs clients
Hospitality House Ministries, $54,150, mortgage, insurance and utility support
SAGE Emergency Domestic Violence Shelter, $41,716
Hospitality House Ministries, $36,000, operations and health safety
YWCA, $32,833, emergency shelter
Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Wenatchee Area, $30,000
Housing Authority, $30,000, Wenatchee housing assistance program
Upper Valley MEND, $25,512, Community Cupboard emergency assistance program
Lighthouse Christian Ministries, $25,000, soup kitchen
YWCA, $20,000, transitional housing
Hospitality House Ministries, $20,000, deferred maintenance and rehabilitation program
Hospitality House Ministries, $15,000, vehicle transportation
Volunteer Attorney Services, $7,685, Housing Justice Project
“It’s an emerging problem that we think we can do more to address,” Libbey said.
That could mean providing funding to a nonprofit or public agency so that it could build or renovate existing space into housing for very low income tenants.
“It could also mean trying to find landlords who are willing to work with folks who may not have the cleanest history on paper,” she said.
But that may also mean less money for existing programs. Libbey said the feedback the steering committee has gotten from emergency shelter providers is that “the majority to 100 percent of the time they have beds available. It doesn’t appear, at this point, that there is a big need for more emergency and transitional housing.”
Lighthouse Ministries applied for $70,000 for Grace House, its 40-bed shelter for women and children in East Wenatchee, and $84,000 for its new Gospel House, an 85-bed emergency shelter for families that is now under construction on South Wenatchee Avenue. But the committee chose not to provide any funding to the programs.
Libbey said that was primarily because Lighthouse Ministries does not participate in a statewide tracking program of homeless people. The program collects information about homeless people that includes their demographics, income level, reasons for being homeless and services they are receiving. The primary reasons for gathering the information, Libbey said, is to track how many people are being helped by grant-funded programs and also to help government agencies determine whether more or different services are needed to address the causes of homelessness.
Bob Rogers, director of Lighthouse Christian Ministries, said he believes the tracking system violates people’s privacy “by tracking their every moment.”
“We had high hopes of receiving the grant money next year,” he said. Without it, they will have to start charging people more money to stay at its shelters. The organization will also have to rely more heavily on community donations to continue its programs.
Grace House has annual expenditures of about $100,000 and the new Gospel House will have a similar budget, Rogers said.
“We’ll just continue to tell people our story and hope that people will rally around that,” he said.
In addition to the Lighthouse, Mid-Point Place, which has received funding through the grant program in the past, will no longer be funded. Libbey said the committee had concerns about its business plan and its ability to stay open. The Salvation Army, which received $50,000 last year for a rental assistance program, was also cut off. Libbey said the program only provides one-time help to renters and was not considered a long-term protection against homelessness.
The new steering committee that recommended how the 2013 money should be distributed included Beth Stipe, executive director of the Community Foundation of NCW; Bev Neher, nursing direcctor for the Chelan-Douglas Health District; Chelan County Administrator Cathy Mulhall; Hans Slette, Northwest Justice Project; Cashmere City Councilman John Bryant; Wenatchee City Councilwoman Karen Rutherford; Mark Botello, Cashmere public works director; East Wentchee City Counciwoman Sandra McCourt, East Wenatchee City Council; and Shiloh Schauer, assistant to Sen. Linda Evans Parlette.
Michelle McNiel: 664-7152