The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

July 1, 2014

Homeless shelter for families to close

PITTSBURG, Kan. — A family emergency homeless shelter serving Southeast Kansas will close for good at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 15, after officials learned that state funding would be substantially less than requested.

Last fall, the Southeast Kansas Community Action Program reported that the future of the Choices Family Emergency Shelter, located in downtown Pittsburg, was in jeopardy after the Kansas Housing Resources Corp. announced that it planned to cut in half the annual funding granted to the agency.

SEK-CAP annually has received about $743,000 for various programs for low-income residents, including Tenant Based Rental Assistance, the homeless shelter and general public transit. Officials expected the cuts, depending on several variables, to be between $371,000 and $396,000 this year.

In April, the shelter closed and the agency no longer accepted applications, but it reopened in May after the city of Pittsburg received a reprieve in the form of $60,000 in funding from the KHRC and designated it for the shelter.

The funding allowed the shelter to operate through the end of June. SEK-CAP and other agencies, meanwhile, submitted an Emergency Solutions Grant application for funding that was to begin July 1.

“We were waiting to hear back on a 2014-15 Emergency Solutions Grant, which was to start today,” said SEK-CAP’s Becky Gray, who wrote the grant request. “The award notification was it would fund 37 percent of our request, which had been just under $230,000 for a full year of operation.”

SEK-CAP entered into conversations with the city of Pittsburg as to whether to accept the money and operate for four months while attempting to pull together additional funding to make up for the gap, but they “collectively decided it was best to not accept that grant because we didn’t know if we could get funding for the rest of the year,” Gray said.

On Tuesday, SEK-CAP representatives announced the impending closure to the shelter’s seven employees and the nine families in residence, which totaled 26 children and adults. Three other families had applications in progress on Tuesday to move into the shelter this week, Gray said.

“We are using SEK-CAP resources to pay for two additional weeks so we can provide that much notice to our employees and residents,” Gray said.

On average, the shelter has been home to around 350 people each year, the majority of whom are children.

“It’s hard to watch as dedicated employees lose their jobs,” said SEK-CAP Director Steve Lohr in a news release announcing the closure, “and it’s infuriating to see this region’s capacity and infrastructure be dismantled by poor choices being made in Topeka.”

Gray said SEK-CAP will continue working to address the issue of homelessness by convening a Homeless Advisory Board of community stakeholders and residents. That board will be headed up by Dick Horton, who this past spring helped with a series of community conversations related to the shelter’s operations and funding.

“He will be the convening force, and it will be up to the community to see what the will of our community is and how we want to approach serving homeless people,” Gray said. “The most important thing is to come up with something sustainable.”

Impact

SEK-CAP’s BECKY GRAY encouraged those with ideas to contact Dick Horton at dickh@sek-cap.com. Another opportunity to address the impact of the loss, she said, would be at a public hearing in the offices of the Kansas Housing Resources Corp. at 2:30 p.m. July 15. Written comments may be submitted to J.G. Sexson, CSBG Program Manager, Kansas Housing Resources Corp., 611 S. Kansas Ave., Suite 300, Topeka, KS 66602-3803.

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