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Local homeless programs get $995K HUD grant

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Local homeless programs received a federal boost Friday with a $995,000 grant from the Housing and Urban Development Department – opening the door to shelter and services for more than 100 additional people this year.

"This funding will help us meet our goal of ending chronic and family homelessness in Sacramento,” Ben Burton, executive director of Sacramento Steps Forward, said in a press release Friday.

The award is part of $201 million in competitive grants that HUD awarded across the nation for 2012.

In Sacramento, homeless programs offered through the city, county and a variety of nonprofit and volunteer organizations are coordinated by the county in what is called a “continuum of care,” Burton said Monday.

Through the continuum of care, more than 3,200 homeless individuals and families are housed every night in shelters, transitional housing and permanent housing programs, Burton said.

“The new money (from the HUD grant) will allow us to serve more than 100 additional people this year,” Burton said.

The grant money will fund four new programs for one year.

The new programs include two programs that provide rental assistance for homeless adults with psychiatric problems, one program for disabled veterans and one program for chronically homeless households that include a veteran.

Mayor Kevin Johnson thanked HUD and Sacramento Steps Forward in an email Monday, saying the nearly $1 million grant is “great news” for the city and county.

"With this generous grant, 100 more homeless individuals, including many veterans, will have a pathway to permanent housing and a better life,” Johnson said.

Burton said a key part of the grant is that it is renewable – once the award is granted, Sacramento won’t have to compete for it again.

“We can continue to get it under our renewal application every year,” Burton said. “Our goal is to make sure our programs are functioning at the highest level so we can continue to get that funding.”

Local advocate for the homeless Tracy Rice-Bailey said Monday that the HUD award will benefit Sacramento – but more is needed.

“Sacramento Steps Forward has been doing a bang-up job,” Rice-Bailey said, “but we need more. We need to have a shelter crisis declared.”

Rice-Bailey referred to a 25-year-old California law called the Shelter Crisis Statute, which allows a county to declare a shelter crisis and then use public facilities – including parks, schools and empty buildings – as shelter if the county has a “significant number” of homeless people.

“We need emergency shelters – a space, a plot of land or an empty warehouse, even,” Rice-Bailey said.

The 1987 statute has never been invoked in Sacramento county, Rice-Bailey said.

Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter@MelissaCorker.

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