AUBURN — Representatives from Auburn-area human service organizations spoke during a public hearing held during Wednesday night's Auburn Planning Board meeting about how money from the city's Community Development Block Grant helps their organizations.
Each year since 1994, the city of Auburn receives money through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to fund services and projects that benefit low-to-moderate-income city residents. Funding for human service agencies is capped by HUD at 15 percent of the city's grant funds, Senior Planner Tiffany Beebee said.
Tom Schuster, a board member and volunteer driver with SCAT Van, spoke during the hearing. He said that from 2015 to 2016, the number of riders who utilized the organization's transportation services increased by about 50 percent. In 2016, the organization gave transportation to almost 6,300 riders over 13,000 trips, Schuster said.
"There's a greater need for our services than there has been in the past," he said.
Schuster said the CDBG funds the company receives from the city helps make ends meet, as the transportation service has a limited budget of about $241,000.
The president of Chapel House's board of directors, James Breslin, said money the homeless shelter receives through the CDBG program has allowed staff to hire a case manager to help the 239 men who have come through during the last year.
"It has a huge impact, the money that the city graciously provides to Chapel House," he said.
On average, it takes about 29 days to get someone out of the shelter and into more permanent housing, whereas it used to take up to three months "just a few short years ago," Breslin said.
"There's a tremendous need for homeless services in the city," he said. "I know when you use the word 'homeless' that's a loaded term. When I think of the homeless, I think of someone's father, mother, son or daughter, friend or neighbor, men and women who have served in our armed forces. In short, they have a connection with someone else in the community."
Denise Farrington, the executive director of the Booker T. Washington Community Center, requested the city continue to allocate funds to the center. She said the center uses the money to fund an eight-week summer program for at-risk youths in the community.
"It's getting harder and harder to run for those eight weeks," she said. "We might have to cut it back to six weeks because a lot of people can't afford to pay. The last thing we want is the kids on the streets looking at our building wanting to come in."
Representatives from the Auburn Rescue Mission, the Auburn Human Rights Commission, Cayuga County Homsite Development Corporation and the Calvary Food Pantry also spoke during the hearing.
The feedback given at this public hearing, as well as a public meeting held in October and an online survey, will be incorporated into the city planning department's Annual Action Plan, which it submits to HUD on a yearly basis. The short survey can be found at surveymonkey.com/r/CDBG2018.
"The community participation allows us to determine how to spend the funds according to the community's needs and wants," Beebee said.