- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Department of Housing and Urban Development yesterday began disbursing $1.33 billion to state and local governments and faith-based groups working to house and service the homeless.

“This funding will help provide homes and vital services to those who need them most — persons and families who deserve a place they can call home,” HUD Secretary Alphonso R. Jackson said.

Despite funding levels being down about $100 million from last year, HUD was able to pay for a record 4,939 programs, with many new projects receiving money.

“There are 611 new projects we are funding this year, representing about $240 million,” said Mark Johnston, HUD’s acting deputy assistant secretary for special needs.

The grants are distributed based on two categories:

• Continuum of Care programs that provide permanent and transitional housing to homeless people, job training, health care, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and child care.

• Emergency Shelter Grants for homeless shelters, operating costs and funds related to social services and homelessness-prevention programs.

The housing agency takes applications for homeless-assistance grants collectively from community groups and government agencies, which meet annually to determine key funding priorities, Mr. Johnston said. The agency received more than 5,000 applications this year.

More than 900 faith-based groups were selected to receive grants totaling $206 million.

For nearly five years, HUD has increased the overall funding for homelessness programs in line with the Bush administration’s goal of ending chronic homelessness.

“We have increased the level of funding every year since 2001, and thus far we’ve spent about $6 billion,” HUD Deputy Secretary Roy A. Bernardi said.

The agency’s own research shows that 10 percent to 15 percent of all homeless people are without shelter for an extended period of time, and that population utilizes more than half of all emergency-shelter resources.

This year’s grants include almost $600 million for projects that provide permanent housing solutions for homeless people, $739 million for programs serving homeless mothers and their children, $125 million for programs serving domestic-violence victims and $53.6 million for projects for homeless veterans.

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