Area agency pushes grant for housing longtime homeless

Eau Claire, WI (WEAU) -- An area agency has been working to help Eau Claire’s homeless by offering longtime housing through a federal grant.

Western Dairyland Community Action Agency obtained a $249,000 Housing First grant that it hoped would provide housing for as many as 30 homeless people, starting around two months ago.

The Housing First program is aimed at getting the chronically homeless off the streets and into housing. But, before the program can begin it will need funding.

Dale Karls with the Western Dairyland Community Action Agency says he hopes the program begins before the weather takes a chilly turn. “I think everyone is just trying to get this program rolled out before winter hits,” says Karls.

For some people, Karls says, the current homeless shelters aren't enough, so this new housing first program will answer their needs.

“Hopefully this can help these people who are chronically homeless, and get them off the streets and really turn their lives around,” he says.

Karls says the program was set to begin in July but the issuance of the grant has been delayed by a processing backlog within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that oversees the grant.

"We were hoping to get this started a few months ago, but we'll roll it out when the paperwork gets done," says Karls saying he has confidence HUD is doing everything it can to make sure the grant goes through.

Shelia Ashley, a HUD official says the department has to focus on the renewal of previous grants before it can tackle new ones.

"We're trying to get through the renewals grants first, and that has to be done until the fiscal year the other grants have until the calendar year to get done,” says Ashley.

Karls says the agency has worked with HUD on many other projects, so he's not worried about the funding going through, despite the delay.

"It's always crunch time, everyone is always up against a deadline it seems but we're confident we'll get this rolled out before the cold weather," says Karls.

Spokespeople with the offices of U.S. Senator Tammy Balwin and Representative Ron Kind say they're also working to try and solve the grant delay.

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