Letter | Cuts in homeless funding decried

By Jennifer Hancock

It was a sad day in our community on Monday, May 2, when the Coalition for the Homeless revealed that funding from the federal agency Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was dramatically reduced for our city's programs serving homeless individuals and families.

The impact is felt across our community as nearly $1.2 million worth of services were cut including our organization, Volunteers of America Mid-States, which will lose $187,350. This funding is allocated for case management and critical supportive services for children and their parents accessing emergency housing at our Louisville Family Housing Services. This is particularly troubling as we operate the only program in the community that provides accredited, comprehensive residential and behavioral health services for homeless children and their parents.

This decision is aligned with HUD's strategy to move resources into permanent housing programs across the country. While the successes of permanent housing programs are noteworthy and needed in this community, not all families qualify for these services. Additionally, the Louisville Metro area has a severe shortage of affordable housing, and emergency shelter and transitional housing are still very much needed particularly for homeless children and their parents.

Like all agencies impacted by this loss, we are examining our options and evaluating the opportunity to engage our compassionate community in keeping this critical program available to those who need our services. Last year, we served 272 individuals, including 171 children, and returned 85 percent of the families we served to live in their own affordable housing. Today, we are serving 24 families, including 39 children. The Coalition for the Homeless, which manages the program placement system, has 36 families in the queue waiting to get into a program like Volunteers of America.

What happens to our community's homeless children if our program is not available? I do not have a vision for that because it is too devastating to contemplate.

The vision I hold is of Marcus Stubbs, the embodiment of the impact of our program. Marcus was a senior at Waggener High School when he and his family became homeless. After six months in our program, he and his family were ready to live independently in our community and have done so ever since. Today Marcus is a senior at Western Kentucky University preparing to study in South Africa this summer. He is why we do what we do.

Until there are no homeless children in our community we must take action. Today 39 children and their parents are counting on us.

Jennifer Hancock
President and CEO
Volunteers of America Mid-States