Becky Gray needs to talk to the community. But unlike other community conversations, this is one she'd rather not need to have.
"I hate this conversation," said Gray, the senior associate director of research, planning, and grant development for SEK-CAP (Southeast Kansas Community Action Program).
Here's the issue: Unless major funding is found by March, the CHOICES homeless shelter in Pittsburg will have to close its doors.
The shelter, located at 204 N. Pine in Pittsburg, is designed specifically for homeless families in the community and can house up to 12 families at a time. Each room has up to six beds, allowing up to 72 people to stay at the shelter at any one time. In recent years, Gray said, the shelter has served more than 300 people a year.
The problem is about money at the state level, and how a simple change has caused a devastating effect on organizations like SEK-CAP.
"The Kansas Housing Resources Corporation allocates Community Service Block Grants (CSBG) from funds throughout the state of Kansas. They use a formula," Gray said. "One of the determining elements has been historically the percentage of people in poverty in the region. They've changed that to be the percentage of Kansans in poverty."
While that may not sound like a big change, it is a big loss in the bottom line for SEK-CAP, which funds and runs the local shelter.
Put in rough terms, SEK-CAP has traditionally received about $800,000 through CSBG funds. Using the historical allocation, this year SEK-CAP would have applied for $698,000, still a cut, but far more manageable. Thanks to the shift in wording, SEK-CAP can only apply for $375,000 instead.
"It's a game changer," Gray said. "The bottom line is $400,000 is leaving Southeast Kansas. We've done a lot with that historically. The biggest thing is we provide the money to fill in the shortfalls."
And Gray explained that a lot of that comes through the local match for grants. For instance, CHOICES homeless shelter typically also gets a separate grant called the Emergency Solutions grant, which comes with a 100 percent local match. SEK-CAP has used CSBG funds to cover that local match in recent years. Now, SEK-CAP can't even accept the shelter grant if they can't meet the local match.
As part of the local match for the Emergency Solutions grant, SEK-CAP has also used the value of the building. However, if the building isn't being used, it can't be used as a match.
"We can only apply for what we know we'll have as far as a local match. Without the CSBG as a local match, we can't apply that to the grant," Gray said.
But there are more complications. For instance, it's not as if one person or organization could come in and pay for a full year of a local match to allow the Emergency Solutions grant to continue. That's because the CSBG and Emergency Solutions grants are on different cycles. The Emergency Solutions grant is for a full 18-month cycle rather than just 12 months.
Further complicating the issue is that the contact person at the KHRC that determines CSBG funding also provides the Emergency Solutions grant.
"We're currently funded through March. Hopefully after that, we can come up with alternatives," Gray said. "We're gathering at least 30 different people to discuss it in a community conversation in January. We'll be looking for ways to fix the issue, but nothing is set in stone."
Gray invited any interested parties to contact her at email@example.com to participate in the conversation before the worst-case scenario comes to fruition.
Gray did say that a portion of the grant would likely still come in, allowing for the continued operations of the Rapid Rehousing program offered through the shelter.