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Long-term homeless money

Published (3/7/2008)
By Patty Ostberg
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LaDonna Lampkin, right, wipes away a tear as Aaron King, center, tells about his homelessness during a hearing of the House Housing Policy and Finance and Public Health Finance Division March 5. Both are participants in the New Foundations program, and are joined at the table by the program

A bill that would appropriate $1 million in an effort to end long-term homelessness for individuals and families was laid over March 5 for possible inclusion in the House Housing Policy and Finance and Public Health Finance Division omnibus bill.

HF3381, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Brynaert (DFL-Mankato), would appropriate the funds to the Department of Human Services for distribution to organizations and others involved in efforts to end long-term homelessness.

Brynaert said the intent is to fund Hearth Connection, a pilot program established in Ramsey and Blue Earth counties in 2000 to provide supportive housing and other resources to those facing homelessness.

Jennifer Ho, executive director of Hearth Connection, said the program has served 720 participants, including 152 families, 348 children and 137 single adults. Families in the program are directed to medical care, mental health care and permanent housing.

“Ninety percent of current participants are in their own home today. When given real options people do not choose to be homeless,” she said.

Continued funding for the program was part of last year’s health and human services funding bill vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Eventually $2 million was negotiated at the end of session for the program, but it was still $1 million short, Ho said.

“Unless we get $1 million restored, 60 families and 90 single adults will lose the support that’s made it possible for them to break the cycle of homelessness,” she said.

The committee has some difficult decisions to make with a large budget deficit looming, said Rep. Scott Kranz (DFL-Blaine). He asked about the cost of not being able to implement the $1 million.

Many places in the state system bare those costs such as school systems, jails and hospitals making it hard to quantify, said Ho.

A companion bill, SF3287, sponsored by Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL-Mankato), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

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