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Brainerd homelessness program to lose federal funds

The only organization providing shelter for homeless families in the Brainerd lakes area will lose its federal funding next year. Leaders of New Pathways recently learned it will no longer be eligible to receive U.S. Department of Housing and Urb...

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The only organization providing shelter for homeless families in the Brainerd lakes area will lose its federal funding next year.

Leaders of New Pathways recently learned it will no longer be eligible to receive U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding. With $86,237 of this funding typically earmarked for the Brainerd location, this means 43 percent of the organization's budget would go unfunded by June 2018.

While Executive Director Pamela Streed said the federal housing agency has been moving toward eliminating shelter funding for some time, the swift timeline of the funding elimination came as a surprise.

"We never expected it to just be pulled," Streed said by phone Monday. "We didn't see that coming, to just pull it all."

To offset the loss of federal financing, New Pathways is launching Path to Home 350, an emergency fundraising campaign. In a news release, Streed stated 350 pledges of $50 per month would cover the loss.

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"We are hoping to find 35 generous donors in each of the (10) counties we serve," Streed wrote.

Established in 1995, New Pathways first opened in Cambridge. In 2006, the program expanded first to Little Falls before moving its second location to Brainerd. The Brainerd location serves six counties, and can accommodate six families or a total of 18 people. They must be families, meaning at least one adult and one child under the age of 18. With 17 people in the shelter program now, it's at capacity.

In the past, New Pathways was one of several organizations selected for funding as part of a larger grant issued to the Central Minnesota Continuum of Care. Continuums of Care are networks of organizations that strategically plan the use of HUD resources to address homelessness. These funding resources are used to provide housing and supportive services for people experiencing homelessness.

The Central Minnesota Continuum of Care consists of partners from 13 counties, including Cass, Crow Wing, Todd, Morrison, Mille Lacs, Kanabec, Pine, Isanti, Chisago, Stearns, Benton, Sherburne and Wright.

In a September letter to New Pathways, coordinator AG Huot expressed concern that including New Pathways in its 2018 funding request might result in a $200,000 funding denial for the entire region.

"New Pathways, according to HUD's definition, is considered a shelter," Huot wrote. "The CoC (Continuum of Care) has protected New Pathways' HUD funding in the past, but due to stricter HUD requirements, can no longer do so. ... The CoC chose to reallocate these funds in order to preserve those funds for other needed homeless programs."

Huot noted this decision had nothing to do with New Pathways' performance, but was rather a strategic move.

"Over the past years they (New Pathways) have provided shelter to hundreds of families," Huot wrote. "Without their programs, many families will go unsheltered as they are the only family shelters in their areas. We are disheartened to defund these greatly needed programs and will assist in any way possible to find alternate funding needed."

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Streed explained while HUD considers New Pathways a shelter, its funding actually supported the program's day center. Overnight sleeping accommodations and three meals a day are provided to clients through partnerships with churches and volunteers within their congregations. The day center aims to provide for all basic needs and the resources necessary to acquire a job and home of one's own: laundry facilities, personal care items, showers, telephone and internet access and transportation. Clients have access to case management as well as skills training, including education on budgeting, parenting, job hunting and healthy living.

Streed said it's these supportive services that could be at risk without community support.

"If we didn't have that family education and we didn't have the case management, that would make it a lot harder, I think, on the churches," Streed said. "It's not that we couldn't exist. ... I think we could, we could still find a way to offer emergency shelter. But if we don't get enough funding, we would lose that piece where we're trying to be a longer-term solution, and really get people connected with other agencies and things that will help them longer term, rather than just a bed for a night or two."

While New Pathways offers respite for a handful of homeless families in the area, Streed described what the organization is able to provide as "far from being overkill."

"Serving 10 counties with two locations, we can help 12 families in total across those 10 counties on any given night," Streed said. "That's really very little. ... We're talking about just really providing at least a minimum of what we should be able to have for families in a 10-county area. Some people say, 'Well, that doesn't sound like very much.' My point is just that."

How to donate to Path to Home 350

To offset the loss of U.S. Housing and Urban Development federal funding, nonprofit organization New Pathways is launching Path to Home 350.

With its emergency fundraising campaign, the organization is seeking 350 pledges of $50 per month to cover the loss.

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To make a donation, visit www.newpathwaysmn.com and click "Donate Today" on the bottom right of the page.

For more information, call 218-454-0460. New Pathways is located at 512 S. Eighth St., Suite 2, Brainerd, in the lower level of First Presbyterian Church.

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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