Stimulus money to prevent homelessness is dwindling in Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth Star-TelegramOctober 24, 2011 

More than 4,000 people were helped by area homeless prevention programs in Fort Worth, Texas, paid for by federal stimulus money that are now winding down, federal and state officials say.

But with the economy still struggling, advocates for the homeless will have to find other ways to keep people out of shelters at the same time the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition projects a 9 percent increase in evictions in the county this year, coalition Executive Director Cindy Crain said.

"We are deeply concerned that prevention dollars are once again going to return to the levels of 2008," Crain said. "It was not enough then when evictions were 20 percent less than what we are experiencing now and our family shelters were not at near 100 percent capacity."

About $7 million in Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program funds were awarded in two-year grants in 2009, and most are over now or are ending, Crain said.

The stimulus money was part of $1.5 billion distributed nationally by the Housing and Urban Development Department. It was intended to provide short-term help paying rent and utilities for people in danger of homelessness.

Only five agencies still offer the prevention services, Crain said.

Tarrant County Human Services has spent $376,885 helping 137 households and recently certified 15 more, Executive Director Gerald Smith said.

But the agency is no longer taking applications, he said.

Social service leaders will have to collaborate to strengthen programs and create initiatives, just as they did when funding for other services ended, Smith said.

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