A day after it became public that the “Home at Last” program was already in the process of closing because the government had failed to fund it since Oct. 1, 2016, the Department of Human Services announced it will tap its “Crisis Intervention Fund” to get money for the program for the current fiscal year.
In a DHS press release issued Tuesday, Commissioner designee Felecia Blyden said, “We fully understand the severity of the impact if we are unable to continue to house those homeless individuals who have benefitted from this program. This issue was a priority for management at the Department of Human Services and we pursued every avenue to find a resolve.”
Working with the Office of Management and Budget, DHS has identified $500,000 for Home at Last, according to Carol Burke of Blyden’s office, who was designated to speak on the issue.
Burke said she could not give a time frame on the actual release of the money because the necessary paperwork has to go through OMB and the Finance Department as well as DHS.
“I don’t have control over those departments,” she said, but she stressed that the payment will be expedited.
A permanent supportive housing initiative, the aim of Home at Last is to reintegrate chronically homeless individuals into the community, via intensive counseling and support from a team of social workers and mental health experts. The first step in the process is to place the individuals in single-person apartments and help them develop life skills, self esteem and responsibility.
The program began operating in 2014. It is designed for 40 to 50 clients at a time, but as funding became problematic, the numbers dwindled to about 30 participants.
Home at Last is operated for DHS by Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands.
“We’re encouraged by it,” said CCVI’s board chairman, Richard Bourne-Vanneck, following Blyden’s announcement Tuesday.
He said Catholic Charities leadership team will meet Wednesday and that its executive director, Andrea Shillingford, was already contacting program staff, landlords and clients “to apprise them of this development.”
It was unclear what will need to happen to reinstate the program. On Monday, Bourne-Vanneck said staff had been working for more than a month dismantling it. Most of the professional staff hired for it had been let go and CCVI management had been working with various government agencies trying to find homes for the clients who had to vacate their apartments.
To close the program “would have been detrimental for those who have struggled thus far with homelessness, and it would have been a setback for the program and this community,” Blyden said. “The Crisis Intervention Fund is indeed an appropriate alternative funding source for permanent housing for our homeless.”
Bourne-Vanneck said, “On behalf of all of those we endeavor to serve we are deeply grateful for today’s announcement that contributory public sector funding for the Catholic Charities ‘Home at Last’ program for Permanent Supportive Housing will be restored for the least fortunate in our community.”