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Quincy homeless shelters still seek support despite state grants

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  July 16, 2013 10:35 AM

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Two Quincy shelters will receive help from a state and federal grant, though both say they need continued public support to deal with rising homelessness.

Both Father Bill’s & MainSpring and DOVE (Domestic Violence Ended) received thousands from the Department of Housing and Community Development, which distributed nearly $4 million in federal Emergency Solutions Grant funds to a number of organizations in the South Shore.

The funding will go a long way to supporting existing shelters and homeless prevention programs in Quincy, but isn’t a fix-all, grant recipients said.

“Public money covers half the cost of the need, so we’re always asking, and have so many individuals and corporations and others supporting our mission,” said John Yazwinksi, CEO of Father Bill’s. “It makes that demand [on resources] harder.”

At Father Bill’s, both the Quincy and Brockton shelters will receive $135,178 for shelter support, $165,795 in what is called “rapid rehousing”, and another $50,000 for tenancy preservation programs.

Shelter support is the organization’s biggest need, and the funding will help support people the shelter houses beyond the shelter’s budget.

“Basically at Father Bills place in Quincy and MainSpring house in Brockton, we’re funded for 126 people a night. This past year, we’ve been averaging 233 people a night,” Yazwinski said. “We’ve always stayed with the principle of getting everybody indoors. With that, this money that you see … requested from the state from emergency solutions grant [is] to help us with the extra people and pay for the cost of the extra beds.”

Last year, the shelter received $200,000 from the state. While federal cuts have trickled down, need has increased. Last year, the shelter averaged eight people fewer a night.

“We’re receiving a bit of less money to help with overflow, but as federal government has made cuts, we appreciate the state helping us out with this region as we continue to see people come in to emergency shelters in the South Shore,” he said.

The rise of homelessness; which Yazwinski attributed to budget cuts in mental health, veterans services, and foster care programs; has made it difficult for the shelter to switch to more of a triage role, or assessing homelessness when a client comes in and figuring out how to get people back into supportive housing.

Yet the other parts of the state grant will continue supporting that mission even as the nonprofit struggles with the switch.

Rapid rehousing programs will help support clients on the brink of homelessness who only need a few months’ rent or housing costs to get by short term.

Additionally, the continued funding for tenancy programs, working through the courts and directly with tenants, will allow Father Bill’s to prevent evictions.

“It’s a continued needed service and it’s much more cost effective to prevent someone from being homeless than it is through the family hotel shelter system, especially when there’s such an overflow,” Yazwinski said. “We hope the commonwealth will continue to look at this as a promising and cost effective program with high outcomes.”

Unlike Father Bill’s, the $14,092 grant is new for the people at DOVE, though community support is still needed for long term solutions.

“It will help us keep providing what we’re providing,” said Sue Chandler, DOVE’s executive director.

The funding will supplement money received from the Department of Children and Families, which provides six emergency shelter beds as well as provide services and advice for hundreds more.

Yet DOVE too is looking down the road at how domestic violence can be handled in the future.

“We’re drafting up building plans right now,” Chandler said. “We have decided we want to locate all our services, expanded resident capacity, community services, and administrative functions into one building. We’re connected with mayor’s office and Quincy city councilors to think of a good location in the city.”

The expansion will increase the 162 beds available in the entire state available for victims of domestic violence. With 2600 hotline calls a year, half of which are looking for emergency shelter, the need is evident, Chandler said.

That initiative will require even more grant funding and community support.

In the meantime, administrators will work on using recently received funds to support at least one shelter room for an entire year.

“We hope that everything will go smoothly and it will be manageable in terms of reporting requirements, but it’s our hope this would work well,” Chandler said.

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