A group of local nonprofit social service agencies appear likely to receive about $74,000 in total, as East Lansing’s City Council prepares to vote on the next year’s fiscal budget and the use of federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The Council held its second and final hearing on Tuesday, May 11, regarding a proposal to allocate $74,090 or 15% of the expected CDBG dollars to four local social service agencies. A vote on the matter is expected on May 25, the same day Council will vote on the Fiscal Year 2022 budget.
No representatives from area agencies attended the first virtual public hearing April 27. But at this Tuesday’s virtual hearing, staffers from Haven House, the Tri-County Office on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program, and EVE did come to speak about their organizations.
Additional CDBG funds are expected to be allocated for housing projects, and the executive director from Capital Area Housing Partnership, which is poised to assist with the housing programs, also spoke at the hearing.
So, what are the missions of these organizations and what programs would these grant dollars assist with?
The agency set to receive the most funds at $34,090 is Haven House, which provides emergency homeless shelter for families with children. The organization also assists with homelessness prevention and maintaining current housing for families.
Gabriel Biber, Haven House’s Executive Director, told Council that his organization typically assists anywhere from 100 to 150 families annually. From Oct. 1, 2019 to Sept. 30, 2020, 92 families were provided emergency shelter.
“Many of them staying longer in shelters than we would typically have seen in the past,” Biber said. “The other big change for us is that our emergency shelter services over the past year have largely been provided off-site through partnerships with local hotels,” because of the pandemic and the need to keep families distanced from each other.
Biber said the agency relies on individual donations from East Lansing residents and grants such as through the CDBG funds. He also said that the agency finds success due to its collaboration with organizations such as the Tri-County Office on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program and also EVE.
EVE (End Violent Encounters), a local organization that assists people subjected to domestic and sexual violence, is set to receive $15,000 if the proposal passes as written. Jonquil Bertschi, who has been EVE’s Executive Director since March, told Council that her organization offers services such as counseling, legal services, and medical advocacy, among others. The services are free to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Bertschi said EVE is most known for its emergency shelter and it also provides a 24 hour crisis hotline. In East Lansing in 2020, EVE had 131 clients, 76 of which were survivors of domestic violence, 31 of sexual assault, 23 of stalking, and one survivor of elder abuse.
“We would like to thank you for your consideration,” Bertschi told Council. “Of course our clients and our survivors that we work with appreciate the funding. I can assure you we will spend it wisely and impactfully.”
Also set to receive funds is the Tri-County Office on Aging’s Meals On Wheels program, which has served seniors in Ingham, Eaton, and Clinton Counties since 1974. If the proposal passes as written, Meals on Wheels would receive $10,000.
Carl Buonodono, a staffer at the organization, said the program’s purpose is to serve the aging population by providing healthy, balanced meals.
From April 1, 2020, to March 30, 2021, Buonodono said, the nutrition program served 55 homebound seniors within East Lansing, for a total of 9,321 meals. Across all three counties, the agency’s nutrition program provided 653,000 meals in the 2020 fiscal year. The program also allows staffers to check on seniors, to make sure they do not need additional assistance.
Buonodono said the money from the CDBG grant “would go toward providing 2,000 of those meals at our current $5 per meal rate.”
Overall, Covid-19 has only caused minimal disruption, according to Buonodono. Meals have been delivered weekly instead of daily, and the agency did distribute quarantine boxes. Pick-up locations are contactless, with three currently in East Lansing.
One other external social service organization that would receive funds, in the amount of $15,000, is MSU Safe Place, Michigan State University’s relationship violence and abuse assistance program.
The center provides services such as counseling, shelter, support groups, advocacy, and referrals. Services are available to all students and faculty free of charge and accessible to those not affiliated with the University. MSU Safe Place also offers education programs to groups both on and off campus.
Under the current proposal, additional CDBG funds would also be allocated for other projects, such as infrastructure and housing upgrades, and to pay for City staff time.
One other nonprofit organization that would benefit from the current allocation proposal is Capital Area Housing Partnership (CAHP), which exists to develop affordable housing, homeownership, and financial security, according to its website. (Council member Dana Watson serves on CAHP’s Board.)
CAHP Executive Director Rawley Van Fossen told Council the CDBG allocation will assist with the continuation of homeowner rehabilitation efforts and downpayment assistance. Van Fossen said housing supply is limited for lower income households in East Lansing and the state.
“Programs like CDBG are fortunate for communities like East Lansing to have and to distribute, because it gives an opportunity to those vulnerable families to have a leg up and rehabilitate their home,” Van Fossen said.
According to the City’s Community Development & Engagement Manager Amy Schlusler-Schmitt, for managing housing rehabilitation grants CAHP “is expected to receive up to $18,750 in administrative fees, in order to assist 4 households.”
She adds that, “For the Home Ownership Assistance Program (HOAP), prior year program funds will be allocated to help assist up to 2 households, and Capital Area Housing Partnership will receive up to $3,750 in administrative fees.”
The CDBG funding history of the last 10 fiscal years, showing which organizations received allocations and the amounts received, can be viewed at this link.
To watch the East Lansing City Council Meeting on May 25, click here. To communicate with City Council, you can speak at any Council meeting during public comment or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.