The Friends In Crisis homeless shelter’s front lawn has turned into a small tent town.
The 75 former residents have nowhere to go since the shelter closed May 18 and many stay just outside the doors of the building where they had showered, slept in beds, done their laundry and eaten a hot meal.
On Tuesday, Families In Crisis board vice president Larry Moehnke spoke to the Killeen City Council seeking city financial support as part of the group’s $200,000 fund-raising goal to offset the loss grant money.
He left the meeting with no solid answer as the council voted to have City Manager Ron Olson make the final decision.
The shelter is in District 1, represented by Councilwoman Shirley Fleming.
Fleming said in an interview Wednesday that the council’s vote was justified, and she will stand behind any decision that Olson makes.
“If we go with this, they first need to give us financial reports of money they received from churches and also a business plan,” she said.
The same suggestion was given by the majority of the council.
On Saturday, Moehnke gave his financial report to the Herald and said he gave it to city officials Thursday.
The report said the organization was notified in March that a $93,500 Emergency Solutions grant would be reduced to $51,273 due to their funding allocations. A second grant for $123,000 was discontinued, according to the financial report.
Friends in Crisis budgeted $367,902 for expenses. It has received about $33,500 from donations and fundraising, according to the report. Federal money and Killeen block grant donations account for another $71,273, for a total 2019 budget of $104,793.
Moehnke asked the city for $10,000 per month plus $60,000 to help bridge a funding gap.
As the group waits for news from Killeen officials, the Herald looked at shelter funding in a few area cities.
In Waco, population 132,356, there is one homeless shelter.
The shelter, My Brothers Keeper, is operated under nonprofit Mission Waco, Mission World Incorporated.
Carlton Willis, the organization’s associate executive director of programs, said the shelter receives funding through a Community Development Block Grant administered by the city and applies for the monies every year.
Another way of funding the shelter, according to Willis, is charging those who stay in the shelter more than three nights.
“We charge a fee for those that can pay to stay ... 30 days at $2 a night, next 30 days $5 a night. This gives them initially 63 days to implement their goals and plans. If they can’t pay right away, they must do a chore. If we see progress, we can extend their stay at the shelter,” Willis said.
In Copperas Cove, population 32,706, there is the Cove House, a four-house facility that serves up to 24 people at full capacity.
David Hawkins, Cove House’s executive director, said they do not receive funding from the city but receive it through federal grants.
“The city has helped us in many ways other than funding,” Hawkins said. “In 2016, they deeded the land where our facility is to us.”
In Denton, population 131,044, there is one, nonprofit homeless shelter in the city that is open all week long.
According to Danielle Shaw, Denton’s community development manager, the 5,000 square-foot shelter is operated by the Salvation Army and has a $1.2 million overall budget that is partially funded through the city’s Community Development Block Grant.
This fiscal year, the shelter was given a total of $23,250 from the city.
“The City does provide grants to these organizations through our Human Services Grant awarded annually. The HS Grant is funded through CDBG (community development block grant) and City general funds,” she wrote in an email to the Herald. “This is group shelter, housing 30 to 42 depending on inclement weather. It serves primarily single men and women but does have a family room and it can provide hotel assistance to families in some instances.”
KILLEEN COUNCIL CONCERNS
Killeen council members at Tuesday’s council meeting and later in the week talked about their concerns.
“We do have a serious homeless problem as I am seeing more of them in the street since the shelter closed,” Councilman-at-large Juan Rivera said on Tuesday. “We know this is a problem, we can see it in front of us.”
District 2 Councilwoman Debbie Nash-King wrote in an email sent to the Herald on Friday that her concern is “how the city staff and council can justify partnering with one nonprofit organization in debt and not supporting other worthy nonprofits that also service the entire community.”
“The city’s budget is already stretched due to lack of revenue growth and if the council votes to subside the shelter, taxpayer’s services must be cut from the budget to offset the cost,” Nash-King wrote. “I have a responsibility as well as the council to provide the best quality of services to the taxpayers of Killeen. After all, it is their tax dollars the council is spending.”
Steve Harris, who represents District 4, commented during Tuesday’s meeting that he “is not sure of what happened but doesn’t want it (homeless shelter closing) to happen again.”
Mayor Pro Tem Jim Kilpatrick said to Moehnke on Tuesday he received phone calls from residents after the shelter’s closing.
“I am getting some (calls) for, ‘We gotta help this,’ and some that said ‘We got questions,’ and one of the questions I’m getting over again is 75 people a night, we probably could do more if we had a bigger shelter,” Kilpatrick added.
Councilman-at-large Gregory Johnson, who said he was once homeless, said he commends the shelter’s efforts.
“As a council member, I have to be fair across the board. Council gets requests all the time from nonprofits. Again, going back to the financial part, that is a big concern. I would consider this request before the budget season for the simple fact that we have citizens that are on the streets. They depend on the shelter,” he said on Tuesday.
Killeen has the population of 149,103, according a 2018 U.S. Census Bureau report.
In March 2019, numbers of Bell County homeless people were released through the Central Texas Homeless Coalition Point In Time Count report.
The total number in the report was 409 in both Bell and Coryell counties — an increase compared to the 325 people counted in 2018.
Of the 409 homeless counted in January 2019, 318 were adults, 91 were children under the age of 18. Of the adults, 24 were ages 18 to 24.
The report said 16 of the people counted were identified as chronically homeless, and 31 were identified as veterans.
Locally, the Friends In Crisis shelter received 245 new clients in 2019 before it closed.
Mayor Jose Segarra said to Moehnke on Tuesday:
“I know how hard you’ve been working. We really appreciate everything that you’ve done here in the community. I understand what you need to do in order to ask for the money.”
“From my perspective and speaking with staff and everything … as we are getting into this budget, my recommendation is we look at, not just this, but unfortunately all of the things going now and I know that your need is immediate.”
Families in Crisis, which runs a domestic violence shelter, has planned fund-raisers and Friends in Crisis will receive some proceeds.