FARMINGTON — Although the city is preparing to provide about $103,000 in funding to social service agencies in the area, hard economic times are making it more difficult to serve people this year.
That could mean more families living in the streets, according to one official. And two city council members say the city lacks a comprehensive strategy to ensure the limited funding is most effectively spent.
Farmington City Council voted to award $27,135 to People Assisting The Homeless, $10,000 to Masada House, $15,000 to San Juan County Partnership and $8,000 to the San Juan College Family Resource Center's day care assistance program from the Community Development Block Grant public service fund. The grant is a local branch of a national program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Masada House will receive an additional $15,325 of $43,112 in funds left over from the grant program's capital projects allocation. Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Juan County will receive the roughly $27,786 that remains from the capital component.
City Council is expected to give final for the funding at its June 11 meeting.
At least a few of the organizations receiving support are struggling to find adequate levels of funding because of the recession.
Last year the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority gave the San Juan County Partnership about $175,000 in funding toward its housing assistance program, said Pamela Drake, the organization's executive director.
"We're getting only $27,000 from the state now because of cuts," she said.
The funding cut could put some individuals and families back on the street or force them to live in their cars, Drake said.
The San Juan College day care assistance program, which provides childcare assistance for students with children, is also feeling the squeeze.
Mayor Tommy Roberts asked Tuesday morning how the program could be affected if the city does not provide funding.
A reduction in city funding could impact disadvantaged students' ability to pay tuition, said Mary Schumacher-Hoerner, director of the college's Child and Family Development Center.
People Assisting The Homeless sought funding to help cover operational costs for the planned transitional housing program at A Path Home Tuesday morning.
Although the program is slated to receive $27,135.30, Jonna Sharpe, the organization's executive director, said the total cost is about $74,000.
"It will definitely be a start," she said. "It's very helpful, but there's still going to be a gap. I still feel like we're putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound." Although the funds have not all been allocated, two city councilors say they have issues with how the Community Development Block Grant funds are allocated, and with how the city is vetting applicants.
After all of the Community Development Block Grant conversations city council had in the past 30 days, there is still a lack of clarity on what the comprehensive level of service provided by all of the area's social service organizations is, said Councilman Jason Sandel Tuesday morning.
Sandel said he was concerned that some services are being duplicated, or that some organizations are achieving less-than-optimal results.
It would be beneficial for city council to identify efficiencies, to know which programs are working and which ones are not, he said.
"I would love to get a comprehensive understanding of how all the services (work together)," Sandel said. "We need to find the programs that are working. I just don't understand how it all fits together."
Councilwoman Mary Fischer said the city's whole process needs to be revamped.
"We should be asking for more specific plans," she said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. "It would be a more efficient way of doing things."
City council should be producing a three- to five-year plan identifying areas, such as homelessness or addiction, that they want to address, Fischer said.
Community Development Block Grant funds could then be allocated to organizations that work to address those fields, she said.
"Then after funding, we could do a post-analysis," Fischer said. "It's not my intent at all to tell the social service agencies how to do their work, but we have limited funds. The city should have a coordinated effort. It's just ... we don't have a plan."