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Clearwater may cut funding for shelter

The money might be used for a consultant to negotiate a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 27, 2000

CLEARWATER -- City officials propose cutting $100,000 from the emergency shelter run by the Clearwater Homeless Intervention Project next year, and the agency is scrambling to ensure its existence.

The city money represents roughly one-third of the 48-bed shelter's annual budget.

The CHIP shelter, at 1339 Park St., provides shelter for 1,000 to 1,200 people annually who are trying to find work and stay clear of local police.

In its two-year existence, the organization has been touted by local officials as a model program, with city police working with community social service agencies to address homelessness.

Police Chief Sid Klein, who is chairman of the shelter's board of directors, has been working to persuade city administrators to restore the shelter funding that was cut from next year's tight city budget, which takes effect in October. Some of the funding probably will be restored, officials say.

Otherwise, "With significant funding reductions in . . . grants, county funding and private donations, CHIP will not make its $350,000 annual budget and will cease to exist," Klein wrote in an e-mail.

Klein says he thought there was a commitment by City Manager Mike Roberto to finance the homeless shelter again next year. But when the state announced a $100,000 grant for CHIP next year, the city proposed cutting its $100,000 in funding.

Roberto said he doesn't think it's fair for the city to bear the brunt of financing the homeless shelter, especially if entities like Pinellas County aren't paying their share of helping the area's homeless.

"I think it's an important program to fund," Roberto said. "The question is, who funds it? Other places are not delivering."

Assistant City Manager Bill Horne said Roberto has other priorities for the money, such as hiring a consultant to negotiate a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies to build their proposed new spring-training stadium. There also are possible expenses to test and clean up the potential stadium site on St. Petersburg Junior College's Clearwater campus.

"I think this is going to force us to resolve the basic issue as to what is our interest with supporting CHIP," Horne said. "We do have limitations as to how far we can do a lot of things we want to do."

Roberto has been meeting with commissioners individually to discuss the issue.

CHIP was counting on both the $100,000 from the state grant and the $100,000 from the city to make ends meet next year, said Ed Brant, who manages the Salvation Army's homeless project and CHIP's emergency shelter.

The organization now is applying for additional state and county grants to make up for the $100,000 shortfall. CHIP officials also scrutinized their budget to try to cut unnecessary items, such as coffee for people who come to the shelter to take showers.

"The money from the city was like heaven-sent," Brant said. "Then to have that taken out from us was sort of, well . . . we've been sitting down almost daily looking at our budget asking, "what can we cut now?' "

In addition to looking for grants, Brant said the group has been investigating funding from foundations and corporations. Now 2 years old, the homeless shelter finally has a good track record to show potential donors, Brant said.

The bulk of the group's budget would be tough to cut: CHIP needs eight staff members for the shelter's three daily shifts, seven days a week, as long as it remains a 24-hour shelter, Brant said.

There also are plans to expand the group's services next year by opening a 35-bed, longer-term shelter for working homeless people who need more time to get back on their feet. That would require the addition of two staff members, Brant said.

CHIP isn't the only social services agency that will be receiving less funding from the city next year. The city has about $160,000 in grants for groups in 2001. It's the same amount as last year, but the city intends to divide the money among more groups than last year, Horne said.

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