A leading shelter for female victims of domestic violence pleaded with Miami-Dade officials over the weekend not to force more than 60 women and 200 children to find somewhere else to live amid a shortfall in county homeless dollars.
Inn Transition North and South, a pair of shelters run by the Junior League of Miami, lost out on about $900,000 of federal aid sought by Miami-Dade’s homeless agency, part of a $5 million miss that last week thrust the county’s network of shelters and other providers into crisis mode.
County social workers are meeting with Inn Transition residents Monday and Tuesday, conversations that amount to eviction briefings, representatives of the shelters located in Homestead and northern Miami-Dade said.
In a Sunday letter to the chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission, Jean Monestime, the Junior League wrote county staff planned to inform residents “that they can no longer remain in their current homes and must make plans to relocate due to the snafu in the award of federal funding.”
“This news will be devastating to the residents,” wrote Emilie Goldman Wernick and Amanda Altman Kessler, the outgoing and incoming Junior League presidents. “We believe this move by County staff is premature and must be halted immediately…”
Victoria Mallette, director of Miami-Dade’s homeless agency, said Monday the upcoming meetings with Inn Transition residents should not be seen as evictions. “Nobody has called for the clearing of the building,” she said. “But the program is one of those programs where the funding is running out. We’re looking to provide any support we can…”
Kessler said shelter staff has been told the county will be telling residents they must find a new place to live. “They’re telling us the residents are being told they have to leave,” she said.
Already, Miami-Dade has informed nonprofits that provide “transitional” housing for the homeless — typically shelters that house people for up to 24 months and provide social services such as counseling and drug treatment — not to accept new residents because of the funding shortfall.
And the agency, known as the Homeless Trust, is telling providers to get ready to turn out residents. Theoretically, that could be into a permanent bed elsewhere in the homeless network known as the “continuum.” But administrators say there isn’t money to replace all 700 beds that were linked to the $5 million in denied HUD funds.
“We need to begin the process of transitioning residents quickly,” Mallette wrote in a Thursday email to providers. “Please know that we are working every front possible to advocate for our continuum and the good work you do in helping homeless in our community.”
The Inn Transition plea comes as Miami-Dade’s Homeless Trust, the board that oversees the agency and the special restaurant-and-bar tax that helps fund it, manages both the funding crisis and the political fall-out of last week’s big miss in its pursuit of Washington dollars. With the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development increasing competition for homeless aid, Miami-Dade lost out on $5 million that was supposed to pay for some of the more costly programs it offers homeless residents.
These include domestic-violence shelters, drug-treatment programs and other group-housing centers. Federal policy encourages agencies to shift dollars away from programs that are heavy on social services in favor of cheaper housing-assistance options, such as rental subsidies in for-profit apartment buildings.
Officials at Miami-Dade’s Homeless Trust say places like Inn Transition got caught short in this nationwide shift, though Miami-Dade is believed to have taken one of the biggest hits in this round of HUD funding. But questions are also being raised about whether the Homeless Trust erred in how it pursued the federal grants. Miami-Dade received $29.7 million in HUD’s preliminary awards but applied for $33.6 million. Miami-Dade plans to appeal the denial of funds.
Monestime, the commission chair, issued a memo Sunday urging Mayor Carlos Gimenez to form a task force to study what can be done to address the funding crisis. “The urgency of this situation requires immediate action,” wrote Monestime, whose district north of Miami includes the Inn Transitions North shelter. “We should not be disrupting the fragile lives of these vulnerable people before any briefings occur and policy decisions are made by the County Commission.”