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HUD money for homeless bypasses county

A coalition of social service agencies says it is again unable to fulfill application requirements.

By RYAN DAVIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 19, 2001


For at least another year, Pasco County will remain the most populous county in Florida to never receive -- or even apply for -- funding from the largest pot of federal money to help the homeless.

The Coalition for the Homeless of Pasco, a group of representatives from social service agencies that help the homeless, announced Wednesday that it will not apply for funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Applications are due next month.

"We did not think we could put together a competitive proposal," coalition president David Barzelay said.

Members previously have said that the group was not organized enough. The group started late last year trying to piece together the required plan for getting a homeless person into a shelter, then into transitional housing and eventually into permanent housing. Providing the government with a detailed plan of which agencies can provide each of those services is crucial to receiving funding.

It became more crucial this year when the new administration in Washington released new application requirements for the money, Barzelay said.

"We're struggling to put together the pieces of the puzzle," he said.

As a result, the county is missing out on millions. In December, HUD divided up a nearly $900-million pot of money to counties across the country. Pasco's pro-rata share -- figured based on population and demographics -- was nearly $850,000. It went unclaimed. No one even applied. Since the money was first awarded in 1995, Pasco has never applied.

According to the coalition's most recent count in fall 1999, there are 2,188 homeless people in Pasco County. That number includes families living temporarily in a friend or relative's house after losing their dwelling.

Help could be on the way next year, said Barzelay, who put a positive spin on the announcement. Although the coalition has fallen short, it has taken several steps that will allow it to apply next year.

Members of the coalition will meet next month with officials from New Orleans and Sarasota who have submitted successful proposals, Barzelay said.

Also, the coalition has formed a permanent subcommittee charged with preparing an assessment of the county's homeless service needs, Barzelay said.

"I'm very encouraged by the progress we have made," he said. "The coalition will definitely be in the hunt next year."

- Ryan Davis covers higher education and social services in Pasco. He can be reached at 800-333-7505 ext. 3452 or by e-mail at rdavis@sptimes.com.

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