Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sarasota and Manatee agencies receive homeless assistance grants:

Four local agencies made the cut Tuesday for $1.4 billion in homeless assistance funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Bradenton and Sarasota branches of the Salvation Army were big winners, along with the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness and Jewish Family and Children's Services Inc.

The four grants topped $400,000, said Adrienne Lazeroff, executive director of the Suncoast Partnership, which wrote the HUD grant on behalf of applying agencies in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

The Salvation Army of Sarasota got the largest grant, $170,432, to continue its Families in Transitional Housing, or FAITH, program, Lazeroff said.

FAITH families commit to a structured program that will help them get out of debt. In return, they are provided with rent-free apartments for one year while they save for a down payment for housing, Lazeroff said.

Among groups that lost out in Tuesday's announcement was Family Resources Inc. of Bradenton, which was denied its bid for $315,000 to build a residence for homeless teenagers and their babies.

First Step Inc., a substance abuse counseling service serving both counties, also failed in its bid for $78,483 to build permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless persons recovering from chemical dependency.

"It's really disappointing," said Anne Melton, Family Resources executive director, when she heard the news. "But are we going to quit because of this setback? No!"

The Salvation Army of Bradenton and Jewish Family & Children's Services of Sarasota-Manatee Inc. each received $100,000 for homeless-prevention programs.

The Bradenton Salvation Army will use the money to provide rental assistance to prevent evictions, foreclosures and utility shutoffs, said spokeswoman Ashley Canesse.

"It's a miracle that we have received this funding for the fourth consecutive year," said Canesse. "It's even more of a miracle when you realize how the need has escalated."

Canesse said evictions in Manatee County for 2005-06 were up 14.6 percent compared to the previous year, while foreclosures increased by 36.8 percent for the same period, according to county figures.

"I don't want to raise hopes that this money is here now," said Canesse. "The funds have been awarded but won't be received until a contract is signed, and that could take a couple of months."

Jewish Family and Children's Services provides assistance through the Building Strong Families Program for those at risk of being homeless who commit to long-term goals to stabilize their finances.

"We are delighted to receive this gift so we can continue and enhance the level of care that we can provide," said Rose Chapman, president and CEO.

The agency has helped 412 families, including 960 children, since the Building Strong Families program began three years ago.

The Suncoast Partnership received $37,793 to expand a computerized database for tracking the homeless.

"We are very pleased to get the money," said Lazeroff. "A baseline on who is homeless in our community is critical to our goal of eliminating homelessness."

An expanded database will help bring more homeless assistance funds into the Manatee and Sarasota counties, Lazeroff said.

That's good news for Melton, who is trying to raise $2.5 million to fund and operate the home for teen moms.

"All we need is one really good one to give us a kick-start," said Melton, who recalled it took eight years to raise funding to build the agency's runaway shelter. "If it takes us that long to get money for this project, we will be on the second generation of babies."

Donna Wright, health and social services reporter, can be reached at 745-7049 or at

Grant recipients

• The Salvation Army of Sarasota: $170,432

• The Salvation Army of Bradenton: $100,000

• Jewish Family and Children's Services: $100,000

• Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness: $37,793

Bradenton Herald Staff Writer

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