With the numbers of homeless continuing to rise and the city’s shelters at capacity almost every night, the Seattle City Council added more money to this year’s budget for the day centers where the homeless can shower, do laundry and get help finding jobs.
But when $3.3 million in awards were announced by the city last week, not only wasn’t the extra $200,000 allocated, but the nine existing day-service providers got budget cuts of about 5 percent from last year so the city could fund two new ones.
Councilmember Nick Licata, chairman of the Human Services Committee, said the council’s intent was that the additional money “be distributed quickly to meet the unmet need.”
The city says the new funds hadn’t been appropriated when they were finalizing the day-center grants despite a council directive to the Human Services Department that it “expedite the allocation of these funds.”
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Dannette Smith, the department’s director, said the city is “looking at ways to get the new money out to the people who need the services.” She couldn’t say whether any of the money would be given to the programs that had funding cuts.
The day centers represent nearly a quarter of the city money going to assist homeless individuals and families.
In all, the city awarded $14.3 million to fund shelters and transitional housing, placement, support services and day centers.
One of the new day centers to be funded is the Seattle Indian Center.
Camille Monzon-Richards, former executive director of the center, said the city is expanding providers so that more homeless people get help.
“We’ve been on the receiving end of our contracts not being funded or being funded at a smaller amount. To my colleagues, I’d say, ‘Go back in with a more compelling proposal and be able to deliver. We’re all in this together.’ ”
The day-center funding controversy does provide a window into the competitive grant process, which the city has tried to make more effective and accountable by outlining new performance standards and expectations for services.
All applicants for 2013 funds had to address issues including cultural competency, outreach to the neighborhood where they provide services and collecting federally mandated data.
The cuts to day centers have angered some service providers who question why the new city money wasn’t awarded, even conditionally. They say they will receive less at the same time the city is asking them to track more data.
“If hygiene services are so important that the City Council added money for them, why would they cut all the existing programs?” asked Sharon Lee, executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute, which runs the Urban Rest Stop downtown and in the University District.
At Mary’s Place, which saw a doubling of homeless families last year and more than 2,200 clients, director Marty Hartman said the more-detailed data-collecting requirements include recording every shower.
“We’re trying to feed, clothe, house and help these women find work. Instead of cutting our funding, they should be adding money so we can pay someone to put in all the data.”
At least one day center is appealing its 2013 award. Casa Latina received the highest score of all the applicants for its work center, which provides education, training and job referrals for clients who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness. Yet it received the same cut in funding as agencies ranked much lower.
An expert panel made up of city and King County staff, Seattle police and other funding agencies reviewed and rated each application.
Lynn Thompson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8305. On Twitter:@lthompsontimes