Monday, March 5, 2012

Texas Nonprofits Scramble After State Homeless Program Cuts

Many states across the country have been going through economic crises, leading to budget cuts in important programs.  One example of this takes us to Texas, where years of cuts to the state's homelessness program have left local nonprofits scrambling to save their own services.

The Star-Telegram reported on Saturday that during last year's budget crisis, legislators got rid of a $20 million homeless housing and services program, as well as an employment program and street outreach and rental assistance services.  The programs were first created in 2009 to help the state's eight largest cities fight homelessness.  The $20 million was distributed to local nonprofits in a two-year cycle.  Those funds are now gone.

The cuts have forced these same nonprofits to cut costs in order to preserve their own services.  The Salvation Army in Fort Worth had to cut their case managers from four to one, and saw its client assessments drop from 1,400 to less than 500 in only three months.

The state will still provide nonprofits with $5 million drawn from various sources, such as the housing trust fund, this year.  This was meant to fill the void created by the elimination of the program, but it will still only provide half of the money cities would normally receive.  For example, Arlington will only get $250,000 rather than $500,000.

There is some hope for nonprofits on the horizon.  The United Way of Tarrant County announced last week it would be awarding $2.4 million in grants from Fort Worth's Directions Home program.  These grants would provide money for case managers, career planning, and rental vouching programs.  The Salvation Army hopes to use the money to hire two new case managers for its emergency shelter.  Yet bigger issues lay ahead.  There is currently no funding planned for homelessness programs in 2013.  Nonprofits are planning to lobby the state to at least get the $5 million from this year again.

You can read the full story on this issue in The Star-Telegram.

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