Reboundng and Finding Money after Community Declines HUD Grants
It was immediately apparent that a vacuum was created after Douglas County Colorado Board of Commissioners voted to decline taking HUD grants. As part of the decision, a proposal was made to seek alternative sources of funds, specifically to evaluate the prospect of establishing a fund(s) for matching donations given to existing non-profit grant recipients.
As the CDBG funds run out at the end of 2016 there’s been a scramble for short term solutions orchestrated by the County staff. In general, this is a problem not envisioned by elected officials who never question the strings attached to HUD funds and blindly accept the grants. Notwithstanding the topic about why the new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule is so oppressive in the first place, the solution to the funding problem can be viewed optimistically, albeit not by all recipients.
Using Douglas County as a test bed, there are a few lessons learned since the vote in June. It’s important to understand a key difference between the county and the city governments. The county is obligated by state statute to provide community services, but because of “Home Rule” cities and town are not. Hence there’s a natural falling out between cities (and towns) receiving grants that have been administered by the county. In the short run, the county is asking the cities to contribute to the shortfall since they are direct beneficiaries; but the mayors and council members naturally resist knowing that it’s the county whose back is against the wall. At the end of the day it’s the county who’s most responsible and most willing to help find long term solutions.
The first act of the county was to evaluate, define, and categorize community non-profit needs into safety-net tiers to determine the most critical. At the top as the most critical are, for example, are food banks, crisis centers, and help for the homeless. Water infrastructure for one of the lower income communities was identified as a mid-tier problem and not surprisingly the Public Housing Authority (PHA) was identified as the least critical, although the most bitter and confrontational about having their HUD grants continued.
Necessity being the mother of invention led the county to discover www.foundationcenter.org, the many associated foundations in its nation-wide network, and specifically take a close look at the Douglas County Community Foundation which is an umbrella organization for all types of non-profits. Part of the current strategy is for the county to work with the Douglas County Community Foundation, www. dccf.org to setup a matching fund for donors who contribute to the charities in the top tier of the safety net.
What’s important about www.foundationcenter.org and other national organization is the service they can provide for communities that decline HUD grants. However, local governments are not in the business of seeking out and establishing relationships which is where soldiers opposing HUD grants can help. Working with and representing the county volunteers can approach other national organization that, for example, work with employers who will offer matching funds to employees who contribute to charitable causes. The Ronald McDonald House Charities, www.rmhc.org, is an example of an organization being considered that has the infrastructure and relationships with corporate partners for donations.