Group to seek grant funds to help homeless
BY BRIAN WILSON
Taylor County Supportive Housing (TCSH) has the opportunity to tap into grant funding, it just needs a county committee willing to get the ball rolling and ask for it.
TCSH is a recently formed not for profit agency led by Jessica Mudgett. The group’s goal is to assist people who are currently homeless to transition into permanent housing. They are seeking community development block grant (CDBG) money to purchase and rehabilitate a home to be used for this purpose.
The grant funds they are going after have already been earmarked to be spent in Taylor County and come from the state’s closure of the CDBG-funded revolving loan program. The funds in the program were taken back by the state to be allocated to community projects, specifically those that serve low to moderate income residents. Earlier this fall, $300,000 was awarded to the Western Taylor County Public Library, TCSH is working with MSA Professional Services to tap into the $320,000 that remains earmarked for Taylor County. Under the state’s rules the CDBG money must be spent within two years of being returned to the state or the county loses access to them. February will be one year since the money was returned to the state.
The challenge for TCSH is that a municipality must formally ask for the funds and have them pass through the agency to fund the project. While any grant application will require approval of the full county board, getting it there takes a committee passing a formal resolution for it.
Mudgett was at last week’s county finance committee meeting to get the ball rolling. “This is a starting point,” she said. She explained that their hope is to purchase a 4-5 bedroom home and convert it to be used for housing to replace the current emergency motel vouchers that are funded through the Salvation Army. She said TCSH is working closely with the Salvation Army and that group has resources available to help operate a facility here.
TCSH would own the building and be responsible for its operation, maintenance and insurance costs. When the grant funds are used up it would be up to TCSH to seek additional resources to keep the facility open.
“Are there enough homeless people to warrant this?” asked county board chairman Jim Metz.
“Yes,” Mudgett replied explaining that there are many people in the community who are currently staying with friends, “couch surfing,” and even living out of their vehicles. In some cases the people are working or in school but are unable to get on their feet enough to get into permanent housing. She also said that other times there are people who are in the process of getting on disability, and cannot work and have no income.
Finance chairman Chuck Zenner questioned if the people using the program would receive any help to try and improve their situations.
Mudgett explained that those in the program would have goals and steps they would need to achieve. This could include connecting them to Taylor County Human Services resources. She said the goal will be to get the clients into permanent housing and allow them to be self sufficient.
Zenner suggested that the finance committee could bring it forward, but Lewis disagreed.
“This is a very worthwhile project. I am not knocking the project, it is a good project,” said committee member Lester Lewis while suggesting that the finance committee would not be the proper committee to bring it forward.
County finance director Larry Brandl said he felt the Taylor County Housing Authority (TCHA) would be the place to start. Mudgett is also the director of the TCHA. However, it was noted that while the county has representation on TCHA’s board, it is a separate group and not officially part of the county.
Brandl said there would be other work involved with the grant such as record keeping and accounting. It would require setting up a separate checking account for disbursements.
Mudgett said that MSA is willing to have people speak at a county board meeting to explain what is being proposed. Committee member Tim Hansen noted that they just needed to get it to county board level.
In the end, the committee decided to refer the request to the human services board as being the county committee most connected with the project. Mudgett noted interim human services director Liza Daleiden sits on TCSH’s board of directors.
In other business, finance committee members:
_ Approved spending $1,000 to pay for the annual county employee Christmas party. According to Brandl, the money is in the budget as part of the “sundry unclassified” expenses. Zenner noted that in the future he would like it to be its own budget line item.
_ Reviewed the 2018 audit report from CliftonLarsonAllen (CLA). As with past years, the only notations were the disclosures that the auditing firm had prepared the annual financial reports. This is common for smaller counties and municipalities which do not have the staff or expertise to do it on their own. The management report also indicated a deficiency in financial reporting for federal and state awards. This is again tied to the county’s financial staffing level because the federal rules want these reports to be prepared in-house rather than through a firm such as CLA. The audit also indicated the county had a healthy fund balance.