In anticipation of federal funds, local community leaders told city staff Friday they want more programs to help low-income people in Jefferson City, especially in regards to housing.
The city held a stakeholders’ meeting Friday to discuss the Community Development Block Grant Consolidated Plan for 2019-23. This plan identifies the city’s goals and priority needs for using federal funds distributed to the city. This includes adding programs like down payment assistance homeowner support, infrastructure improvements, residential demolition assistance and city administration costs.
“This plan is so important because it is the framework for the next five years on how we will expend (CDBG) funds, whether or not we utilize every single program identified within this plan for individual years,” Jefferson City Neighborhood Services Manager Jayme Abbott said. “It’s important to address all the needs and priorities in the community.”
Representatives from organizations like the Missouri Department of Mental Health, Cole County Health Department and Capital Region Medical Center Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities asked questions regarding the proposed five-year plan, but most of the emphasis was placed on helping low- to moderate-income people.
Jefferson City anticipates about $250,000 in CDBG funds annually, provided by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This year, the city received $286,021 for CDBG projects.
The city previously funded public services like Project Homeless Connect and Central Missouri Community Action, but such services were not funded this year because of a lack of eligible applicants, Abbott said last fall. Project Homeless Connect is an annual event that provides resources primarily to the homeless, and Central Missouri Community Action used the money to provide child care assistance.
However, providing more public services was a key discussion among stakeholders Friday — specifically providing resources to help Jefferson City residents find permanent housing.
Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell said she wants the city to look at all of the potential programs “holistically.”
“Let’s get them trained for a job; let’s give them skills they need. Let’s help them get into permanent housing. Let’s help them know how to manage their budget, how to eat healthy, how to take care of themselves so we can benefit the whole person and their whole life,” Campbell said. “If you’re in the program for two years, and during that time someone helps you get some training and job skills and how to manage your money and get on your feet, that’ll benefit you and the community and gets people out of this cycle where they don’t know what to do.”
Providing programs that look at the person as a whole would help people move out of temporary homes that accept the housing choice voucher program — commonly known as Section 8 — and shorten the waiting list for Section 8 housing, Campbell said. Jefferson City Housing Authority Executive Director Cynthia Quetsch has said previously the waiting list for Section 8 housing is about three years.
While stakeholders said they think CDBG funds could go toward items like demolitions, public safety and job training, they emphasized transitional homes would be helpful in Jefferson City.
“For the homeless population of Jefferson City, I say supportive housing is always a great resource because it’s a resource for the homeless and people with disabilities, and making units accessible is always a great thing,” said Edwin Cooper, Missouri Department of Mental Health affordable housing consultant.
The current CDBG Consolidated Action Plan is for 2014-18. Its goals include providing affordable housing, economic development and improving city neighborhoods. Needs identified in the plan are public infrastructure improvements, affordable housing, and low-income and special needs supportive services.