Federal housing officials have rejected a $15.1-million grant application submitted by Orange County to pay for 21 projects that would have helped the homeless, the disabled and victims of domestic violence.
The request was for a share of the money given annually by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to fund community projects.
“Orange County got a big zero,” said Bob Wilson, director of the county’s Housing and Community Development Department. “It’s a slap in the face.”
Elsewhere in California, a total of $120.8 million in grant money was awarded last week, with Los Angeles getting $45 million, San Bernardino getting $4.1 million; Riverside getting $3.4 million; and San Diego getting $7.6 million.
Of the projects for which Orange County sought money, 19 were new and two were continuations of existing HUD grants for homeless services.
They ranged from sleeping quarters for homeless veterans in Santa Ana to the purchase of apartments by an emergency women’s shelter in Orange and an outreach program for Latino and Vietnamese disabled people countywide.
By contrast, the county got $7.3 million in HUD funds last year for 22 projects.
Steve Jost, chief of staff for Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), said HUD officials in Washington told him the county’s application scored 12 points lower than it did the previous year, despite the fact that HUD acknowledged that the county’s needs remained the same. The drop put the county just below the funding cutoff.
“It baffles us,” said Jost. He said Sanchez intends to file a formal request for reconsideration next week with HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo.
County official Wilson, who termed the rejection suspicious, said his department also has asked for help from Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach).
Nancy Flores, a spokeswoman for HUD in Los Angeles, said it is doubtful that the rejection was in any way related to a year-old criminal investigation into problems in the county’s housing rehabilitation program.
The Sheriff’s Department is investigating complaints of shoddy and incomplete work performed under a HUD-guaranteed home improvement program. The HUD inspector general’s office also is conducting an audit of the program.
Flores said the competitive grants, awarded to 24 California counties and four cities, are given on the basis of the projects proposed, an applicant’s ability to carry out the project, and “a strong vision of community needs.”
Among local projects or programs left without funding were services for the mentally ill and ethnic homeless populations, a shelter for single homeless women, and plans to buy motel rooms and apartment units for homeless singles and families across the county, from Buena Park to South County.
Supervisor William G. Steiner said the rejected grants are a disappointment but noted that they represent only a fraction of the millions of dollars in housing and community development assistance Orange County receives annually from the federal government.
The various nonprofit organizations and government agencies that have benefited from HUD grants for years began combining their applications into one countywide proposal four years ago in an effort to win more money from HUD.
The results of the new system have been mixed, with federal officials approving grants in 1996 and 1997.
“Normally, Orange County doesn’t fare very well with these types of competitive grants,” Steiner said. “That’s why we were so happy when we got some” the past two years.
The news was received bleakly by the 18 organizations that submitted proposals as part of the county’s request to HUD. The groups met this week in Wilson’s office to discuss what to do next.
“This will be devastating,” said Deanne Tate, executive director of Veterans Charities Inc., which sought $982,000 in funding. “We were counting on the money because we have so much increase in demands for service.”
The Santa Ana-based organization provides housing for about 120 homeless veterans, and those with mental health or substance-abuse problems. Tate said the group hoped to use the money for more mental health services for veterans and to boost the number of people it could accommodate at its shelter.
“We had pinned our hopes on getting this money,” she said.
The Dayle McIntosh Center in Anaheim, which provides services to the disabled, sought $1 million to provide homeless services specifically for people of Latino and Vietnamese heritage. Community relations director Danielle DePalma said the grant was crucial to helping “unserved and underserved populations.”
In Buena Park, the city hoped to snag $980,000 to provide vouchers for motel rooms as a way of giving the homeless shelter and keeping them off the streets. The city has been in an ongoing fight with the Rev. Wylie Drake to keep Drake from violating city ordinances by giving the homeless shelter in his Baptist church.
“We could use all the help we can get,” Drake said Friday. “The need is very great. . . . The people need shelter.”
At Irvine Temporary Housing, the HUD rejection will force a $70,000--or one-fifth--cut in its budget. The organization has been operating for the past three years with the help of a HUD grant.
“It’s certainly going to affect our ability to serve people,” director Margie Wakeham said. “Unfortunately, Orange County is not viewed as being tremendously needy, even though I don’t see it that way. I’m very disappointed.”
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County Strikes Out With HUD
Orange County’s request for $15.1 million in funding for 21 projects to benefit the homeless, domestic-violence victims and the disabled recently was rejected by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funneled a total of $120.8 million to projects elsewhere in California. Here are the organizations that applied for funding through HUD:
Organization: Homeward Bound Inc.
Purpose: Develop Web site for homeless providers
Organization: Veterans Charities
Purpose: Emergency and transitional housing
Organization: Health Care Agency / O.C. Housing Authority
Purpose: Support services, case management, job training, medical for mentally ill
Organization: Human Options Inc.
Purpose: Renewal for domestic-violence services
Organization: Mercy House Inc.
Purpose: Domestic violence, substance abuse
Organization: Shelter for Homeless
Purpose: Purchase two four-plex units for disabled
Organization: Mental Health Assn.
Purpose: Assist homeless children and adults
Organization: Mary Erickson Community Housing Inc.
Purpose: Education for homeless and very-low-income families
Organization: City of Tustin
Purpose: Collaborative support for families
Organization: H.O.M.E.S. Inc.
Purpose: Housing for chronically mentally ill
Organization: Irvine Temp. Housing
Purpose: Renewal for family transitional housing
Organization: Episcopal Serv. Alliance
Purpose: 20-unit apartment for emergency housing
Organization: AIDS Services Foundation
Purpose: Housing for individuals and families
Organization: Dayle McIntosh Center
Purpose: Homeless, disabled Latinos and Vietnamese
Purpose: Build 54-unit homeless hotel for women
Organization: Women’s Transitional Living Center Inc.
Purpose: Support services for domestic-violence victims
Organization: Shelter for Homeless
Purpose: Outreach to Latinos and Vietnamese
Organization: Saddleback Community Outreach
Purpose: Buy four housing units in South County
Purpose: Services for single women, seniors
Organization: Shelter for Homeless
Purpose: Buy 10-unit apartment complex
Organization: City of Buena Park
Purpose: Buy motel for use by homeless
Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development