There are strict criteria for the federal Housing and Urban Development money, which totals $788,961 for the 2014-15 year. It can be spent on programs providing decent housing, suitable living and expanded economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income people, according to Liz Stotts, the city’s CDBG programs specialist.
Added to that is the city’s money, and the City Council approved a 2 percent increase in grants for this year to a total of $640,821.
The Community Development and Human Services Committee combs through applications every year to analyze each agency’s finances and performance. Members do site visits and interviews for every applicant as well, and their recommendations are usually approved by the council.
This year was no exception, and the council unanimously voted to fund 45 agencies (mostly nonprofit organizations) and six capital improvement projects at Tuesday’s meeting.
The council’s top priority is programs that provide basic needs or reduce the impacts of homelessness and gang violence in the community, Stotts said.
The Casa Esperanza Homeless Center was given $102,500 for its shelter and jail discharge program. Last fall, the center eliminated its Community Kitchen and day-center services, as well as making its shelter services available only for sober residents.
In March, the board laid off the executive director and associate executive director to cut back on operating costs.
None of the city’s grant money will be going to management salaries, but will help support the shelter’s basic functions, board member Rob Pearson said.
In the absence of leadership, board member Bob Bogle stepped up to serve as executive director for free, and he thanked the council for making the funding available.
The Independent Living Resource Center has been funded through the grant program for the past 25 years but wasn’t recommended this year. Staff and board members asked the City Council to reconsider their request for $49,000. Last year, they were awarded $13,500 by the city.
Business manager Jennifer Griffin asked for more communication during the selection process, saying they never got to address the committee’s concerns.
Committee members were concerned the organization wasn’t doing independent fundraising, but the ILRC is working to increase fundraising by 50 to 100 percent every year, with a goal of $37,000 for next year, board member Larry LaBorde said. The organization serves the Tri-County area.
“We’re certainly rookies at fundraising,” he said.
Two councilmen wanted to give the ILRC a few thousand dollars as a gesture, to help them in private fundraising, but there wasn’t support from the rest of the City Council.
The grant committee’s recommendations were unanimously approved by the council.
“I feel like (the ILRC) issues are valid and we’re not providing the leverage that we could for that organization to fundraise and hit these ambitious targets,” Councilman Bendy White said. “It’s just, here we are in a time and history when the safety net is fraying every day and it breaks my heart, and I know it breaks the hearts of many of us in this room.”
The council also funded six capital projects: rehabilitating the Westside Center’s restroom; installing access ramps on Voluntario Street; remodeling the Girls Inc. restroom; contributing to the roof replacement of the Westside Neighborhood Clinic; self-employment training through Women’s Economic Ventures; and a Parks & Recreation renovation at the Parque de los Niños.