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Grant for Homeless Shelter Denied

The city’s matching-fund grant application to help defray operating costs at the homeless shelter in Laguna Canyon was rejected by the county because the temporary shelter is just that, temporary.

The $190,000, two-year federal matching-fund grant is geared for more permanent housing, the city was recently informed by the county’s community development staff.

There is money available through the federal Housing and Urban Development Department for shelters for homeless people, said Julia Bidwell, deputy director of the county’s community development office, but it’s for permanent housing programs or transitional shelters that have structured programs of up to 24 months. Emergency shelters, she said, are ineligible.

“It’s disappointing that the federal government is not more supportive of programs like Laguna Beach’s,” said Asst. City Manager John Pietig. The city applied under a category aimed to assist “innovative supportive housing.”

“We were not declared ineligible,” Pietig said, “we just didn’t score well enough to get in the funding category.”

Daga Krackowitz, a member of two defunct city homelessness committees, praises progress made in town, but is not surprised funding was denied.  “I thought the city would already be aware they would be turned down because it’s not a permanent shelter,” she said. “We know it’s not the answer.”

The committees consistently urged the city to develop a “multi-service center” with counseling as well as emergency beds and warned about the scarcity of funding for temporary quarters. “Our emphasis was on permanent housing and costs,” she said.  “There are lots of possibilities for raising money privately as well as getting government money to build something.”

For the first time out of the gate, denial is expected, according to Jane Fulton, former executive director of the Laguna Relief and Resource Center, which manages the homeless shelter jointly with Laguna Beach’s Friendship Shelter. Fulton, a lawyer, helped Mike Phillips, the city’s environmental specialist, write the grant.

Once a grant is denied, the applicant can then ask about improving a future application, she added. “You don’t have that avenue until you get denied,” said Fulton, who left the Resource Center job due to personal and professional conflicts with board chairperson Faye Chapman.

Friendship Shelter, which receives 21 percent of its $1.2 million budget from government grants, offers a three-month residential program in town. “We were lucky enough to receive a $50,000 grant from the Mission Hospital Foundation this year,” said executive director Dawn Price, which nearly equaled a HUD award for its San Clemente transitional housing program.

Pietig said the city spends $250,000 a year on the modular homeless facility next to the Dog Park on Laguna Canyon Road, an iteration of the original shelter opened nearly a year ago at the ACT V parking lot closer to town.

“The city’s priority is to make sure we can keep our beaches and parks open for use as they were intended and to provide a reasonable alternative for homeless people to sleep,” he said.  “At this point, it’s working. We are going to continue to look for funding sources.  We’ve come a long ways and we’ve got a long way to go.”

According to Fulton, Laguna needs to go outside city limits to raise any more money.  “Honestly, I think we’ve tapped out the private funding in Laguna Beach,” she said.

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