Springfield City Council considers spending $9 million on homelessness relief
Earlier this year, Springfield's city finance director estimated that economic damage wrought by COVID-19 cost the city budget some $72.5 million during 2020 and 2021.
Thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act — a COVID recovery law signed by President Biden early in his term — Springfield City Council now has more than $40 million in federal money to address pandemic budget problems.
On Monday night, Council considered how to spend a slice of those funds on affordable housing and homelessness relief.
Nobody from the public spoke to council in support or opposition of the new funding proposal. But City Manager Jason Gage outlined the spending totals for City Council as the city government aims to deal with housing issues.
The funding breaks out into four categories, all of them recommended by a city council committee devoted to reviewing how the city should spend its Rescue Plan funds.
- Roughly $5 million from two separate allocations of Rescue Plan funding would go toward developing new “non-congregate shelters.” This type of shelter includes private units for individuals and families, rather than rows of cots or beds huddled in a big space. The city’s federally-approved plan for spending Rescue Plan money notes that the city may use Rescue Plan housing funds to build emergency shelters. But it’s prohibited from using Rescue Plan money for operating those shelters. How will day-to-day expenses be funded? The 102-page plan says shelter providers linked to the Ozarks Alliance to End Homelessness can get help through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
- $3 million would go to the Community Partnership of the Ozarks for a “purpose-driven day center” project. Community Partnership officials told KSMU that Springfield currently has one main “dedicated day center” for unsheltered people: Veterans Coming Home, on Jefferson Avenue. But VCH “is not purpose driven,” according to Community Partnership. They want to install a day center with a “focused effort on connection with primary systems of care” including health care, mental wellness and legal services.” This would create “a resting place that is safe and monitored using best practice trauma informed care,” according to information Community Partnership shared with KSMU.
- $650,000 would be awarded to The Connecting Grounds church outreach. The Connecting Grounds’ proposal includes storage facility, showers, and outreach services. Connecting Grounds Pastor Christie Love told KSMU this funding would allow the church outreach center to open five days per week. Currently, it’s open three days per week, mornings only.
- $564,703 would be spent on affordable housing home ownership programming, to be determined through a request for proposal process.
At Monday night's meeting, Councilman Richard Ollis (General Seat D) questioned the city manager about where the daytime outreach center would be located.
“I realize this question’s probably a little premature," Ollis said, "but on the purpose-driven day care project, as well as, I guess that’s the one I’m really asking about — how will the location of that facility be established?"
Gage said, “I think that’s a good question — from our perspective, that’s yet to be determined.”
Gage said the day center would be located “at the pleasure” of City Council, and no process had been set for locating it. Any rezoning required for the project would go through normal channels, Gage said.
The funding plan is up for a council vote at the next scheduled meeting on Nov. 14.