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City gets homeless funding from HUD

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that it has awarded members of the Rochester-Monroe County Homeless Continuum of Care more than $3 million dollars to help the homeless obtain permanent housing in the Rochester area.

Connie Sanderson, coordinator for the Rochester-Monroe County Homeless Continuum of Care Team, said that in general, the funding would help about 75 of the area’s 700 plus homeless population, a figure that has risen only slightly despite the economic downturn and high foreclosure rates.

HUD estimates homelessness in America is down 30 percent from 2006 but the number of homeless families nationwide is up for the second straight year.

HUD awarded over $15 million to New York state homeless programs and $216 million nationally.

Most of the money in Rochester went to the Volunteers of America of Western New York Inc. and the Rochester Housing Authority. Providence Housing Development Corporation, part of Catholic Charities, received just over $600,000.

In nearby Geneva, the Geneva Housing Authority received over $300,000.

“This new homeless funding to New York is of vital importance to the many local programs that keep families off the streets and into decent and safe housing,” said Regional HUD Administrator Adolfo Carrion in a press release announcing the awards.

“Knowing that you have a place to call home with support services can make all the difference in returning a family to self sufficiency and independence.

“Our strategy is to end homelessness with affordable permanent housing,” Sanderson said. “It keeps people stable and we’ve had tremendous success with it. If you continue to add permanent affordable housing, people won’t be evicted as much.”

Continuum of care figures indicate 84 percent of homeless people placed in permanent housing in Rochester stay longer than one year and many remain ten years or more.

The continuum would like to add homeless prevention services if it receives enough money.

HUD adopted the continuum of care requirement in the 1990s in which communities have a group in place that represents, plans for and addresses the issues of the homeless in the community.

The Rochester Continuum consists of city and county representatives, The United Way, the Rochester Housing Authority and a network of homeless services.

“It works well here,” said Alex Castro, executive director of the Rochester Housing Authority. “There is a great sense of collaboration here in Rochester between agencies. These are much needed grants.”

The grant does more than take people off the street, it provides the services homeless people need to help become self sufficient such as job training, mental health counseling, case management, child care and substance abuse treatment.

The money awarded to Rochester will go for homeless families, individuals, older youths and veterans in a mix of housing ranging from efficiency apartments for singles to larger apartments and rental units for families.

Sanderson said the money would be distributed over a three to five year period by HUD.