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Homeless assistance agencies in Miami to receive over $21 million

County government officials stand holding an oversized check for $21,214,474 from U.S. Housing and Urban Development.
Photo by Joshua Ceballos
U.S. Housing and Urban Development announced a $21 million grant for Miami-Dade County to tackle homelessness.

Amid an increase in homelessness since the COVID-19 pandemic, Miami-Dade County's Homeless Trust will receive over $21 million in federal funding over three years to find housing for people in need.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the grant this week outside Miami's Government Center, where dozens of homeless people sleep in the park, near the fountain and outside the center's doors.

The $21,214,474 grant comes from HUD's Continuum of Care Special Notice of Funding Opportunity competition, in which local governments and agencies submitted program proposals to receive funding for homeless service programs.

In total, HUD will administer $315 million in funding to organizations throughout the U.S. to deal with rural and "unsheltered" homelessness, meaning people living outside of shelters and on the street.

"The work that they're going to be doing will involve a broad array of stakeholders in efforts to reduce homelessness, advance equity, and use a housing-first approach to make sure that everyone can get access to the housing they need," said Marion McFadden, HUD's principal deputy assistant secretary for Community Planning and Development.

There to receive the oversized check from the federal agency on Thursday were Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, members of the county commission and Homeless Trust Chairman Ron Book.

Unsheltered homelessness in the U.S. went up by 3.4% between 2020 and 2022, according to HUD's Annual Homeless Assessment Report. In Miami-Dade County, where rent prices and home values have skyrocketed since 2020, homelessness assistance agencies have struggled to keep up with rising demand.

Just a few steps away from the podium where government leaders waited to receive the funds, Lazaro Ramos watched the proceedings from his fountain-side seat next to the cardboard mat he uses for a bed..

Ramos says he has been living outside Government Center for the past two years, because he can no longer afford rent on his retirement check.

"It suits the local government to have us out here on the streets, because then they get money for the federal government," Ramos told WLRN in Spanish before the press conference.

Lazaro Ramos, a homeless man who lives outside Government Center, sits near a park fountain.
Photo by Joshua Ceballos
Lazaro Ramos has lived in the park outside Government Center in Miami for two years. He can't afford rent.

Hilda Fernandez, CEO of nonprofit Camillus House, came up to Ramos and gave him the phone number and address to Camillus House, where he can get a shower and start the process to enter shelter and housing.

Fernandez said the pipeline for homeless assistance has been blocked by the housing crisis in Miami-Dade County.

"The system is clogged. People are taking longer than they should to move out of shelters into their own housing because they cannot find housing reachable based on their means," Fernandez told WLRN.

The HUD funding will go to the Homeless Trust, which is the fiduciary for any funds going towards homeless services in the county, meaning they disburse money to other local agencies such as Camillus House. The Homeless Trust also recently received a one-time $25 million payment from the county's general fund in the 2023 budget cycle.

Book, the Homeless Trust Chairman, said the funding will fund additional shelter beds and purchase buildings to provide permanent housing for the county's homeless residents.

Fernandez said Camillus House will receive a little over $12 million of the HUD money to fund initiatives such as vouchers for subsidized housing and additional units of permanent supportive housing, in which the nonprofit and other agencies provide counseling to help chronically homeless people stay off the streets.

"This will allow us to serve another 125 people in permanent housing with rent assistance and more importantly, with services so that once we place them into housing, we can help keep them housed so they don't reenter the system of care," Fernandez said.

Camillus House is also working on a new shared housing model, in which homeless people will live in a multi-bedroom apartment with a shared living space owned by the nonprofit. Fernandez said the nonprofit is looking to expand the model into South Dade.

Joshua Ceballos is WLRN's Local Government Accountability Reporter and a member of the investigations team. Reach Joshua Ceballos at jceballos@wlrnnews.org
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