Homeless caught in middle of efforts to end homelessness

Housing officials in Eau Claire, Wis., says more people are going to be sleeping in cars and on the streets now that the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has pulled funding from two agencies in the region that find housing for the homeless.

Western Dairyland Community Action Agency and Family Promise of the Chippewa Valley learned last week they’ll lose the federal money, the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reports.

Most of the money was used to help pay rent for 26 homeless families but HUD didn’t think it was an efficient use of the money.

“This is awful,” Family Promise executive director Kelly Christianson tells the paper. “These are real lives, real people with real needs, and now we aren’t going to be able to give many of them the help they need.”

“I think about the families we work with, about the kids and how they need our help. What are they going to do now?” Western Dairyland executive director Anna Cardarella added.

They say without the money, landlords will be even less likely to rent to the homeless. And the officials said case workers may no longer be available to assist with job training.

HUD has a new way of “scoring” how the money is used and the two agencies ranked last in Wisconsin because they didn’t serve more people.

That’s the catch-22; punished for not helping more homeless people; the action will create more homeless people.

“It’s not that these agencies here did something really wrong,” said Carrie Poser, director of the Wisconsin Balance of State Continuum of Care that oversees HUD programs in the state. “They didn’t. But did they execute the grant in the way HUD expected them to? The answer is no.”

Poser, who lives in Eau Claire, says too many of the agencies clients ended up homeless again.

What now?

Good question.

“This isn’t about feeling sorry for ourselves. This is about trying to figure out what we do next,” Christianson said.

Dr. Ben Carson, who runs HUD, wrote in an op-ed last month that he knows how to end homelessness. Give them housing, he wrote.