A first-time federal grant will provide a much-needed boost to nonprofits working to re-house homeless families in Henrico County. Henrico received a $126,171 Emergency Solution Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The money is a fraction of the nearly $2.5 million Henrico received from HUD for the upcoming fiscal year, but it’s first time the county has received ESG money. Henrico qualified for the funds based on a formula that takes into account population, poverty rate and other demographics, says Mark Strickler, the county’s director of community development.
Five projects will be funded using the ESG money. Nearly half of the funds will be allocated to nonprofits that assist homeless families with rapid re-housing. The practice puts homeless families back into their homes as quickly as possible while providing services to help with budgeting, substance abuse, mental health or any other destabilizing factors.
“No matter how much money you have, there’s always going to be a need greater than you can meet,” Strickler says of the demand for rapid re-housing.
Hilliard House and St. Joseph’s Villa, nonprofits that assist homeless families with rapid re-housing, will each receive $30,000 from the ESG grant. Ross Altenbaugh, executive director of Hilliard House, says the money will help re-house about a dozen families. Doing so costs between $2,500 and $3,500 per family, she added. The nonprofit has not received money from Henrico before specifically for rapid re-housing, she says.
“It’s nice to find new funding streams opening up when every other funding stream we work with is shrinking,” Altenbaugh says.
In the last four years, Hilliard House has adjusted its strategy for addressing family homelessness in accordance with national trends, Altenbaugh says. The nonprofit still operates a transitional shelter, but Altenbaugh says it works to leverage a network of landlords and community resources to re-house homeless families as quickly as possible. On average, that takes Hilliard House 26 days. The practice of rapid re-housing is seen as a more cost-effective way to solve family homelessness than lengthy stays in shelters.
In 2010, the nonprofit housed about 20 families with a $570,000 budget. This year, she estimates the nonprofit’s $700,000 budget will allow it to work with more than 65 families. “It really speaks to the magnitude of what you can do when you reallocate your own resources,” she says.
The strategy has paid off — 96 percent of families the nonprofit has re-housed haven’t returned to homelessness after a year, she says. Still, a persistent stream of families in need of help keeps Hilliard House busy.
“There’s a waiting list to access services. That’s a need that we’re responding to with every capacity available, but we’re still at 100 percent capacity constantly,” Altenbaugh says.
The last time Henrico County received HUD funds specifically for rapid re-housing was in 2009, when the county was awarded $603,000 through the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program. The county spent about $526,000 of the money over two years, Strickler says. St. Joseph’s Villa and Commonwealth Catholic Charities received $32,500 and $45,000, respectively.
The remainder of the ESG funds will be allocated for a Henrico Social Services homelessness prevention program, case management for CARITAS, a homeless shelter serving the Richmond metro area, and administrative costs, Strickler says.