The Brainerd Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program (FHPAP) reported 70 contacts in July, 10 of which came from Morrison County.
Michele Fournier, program director with Lutheran Social Services (LSS) of Minnesota - Brainerd, gave a report to the Morrison County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, on FHPAP grant funding received from Minnesota Housing and the services it makes possible. Her organization serves families in Morrison, Crow Wing and Todd counties, and has been the administration responsible for the grant money since 1999. It receives funding every two years, with the new biennium set to begin Oct. 1.
“There’s 20 grantees that serve all 87 counties throughout the state of Minnesota,” Fournier said. “Each county or regional multi-county level establishes a comprehensive service system in regard to their existing homeless support system.”
The funding is used for the purposes of preventing homelessness, shortening the length of stay in emergency shelters and eliminating repeat episodes of homelessness, for example. The Brainerd grant area covers single adults, families and youth.
The non-profit was awarded $822,200 for the upcoming biennium.
Of the 70 calls received from throughout the three-county region in July, eight people reported they were homeless and 50 were inquiries about prevention assistance. The households included 35 single adults, 22 families and one youth.
During the current biennium, which began Oct. 1, 2019, and ends Sept. 30, Fournier said 75 households in Morrison County had received assistance. She said over the last 18 months, particularly, many of the calls LSS has received has been from people experiencing short-term hardships due to the loss of a job.
“They need one or two months’ help with rent assistance, so we’re able to be there to assist them with that,” Fournier said. “As long as they qualify with the financial piece of it, we’re able to do that.”
In helping people through those situations, she said the grant funding is used for rental assistance, rental security deposits, mortgage assistance and utility payments. Fournier said if someone is homeless, LSS typically works with them to find housing and then provides funding for a deposit and “one to two months’ rent.”
“It’s kind of two different systems, if that makes sense,” she said. “Either they’re in housing and we don’t want them to lose their housing, or they’re homeless and we’re trying to help them find housing. Then we also assist with mortgage payments, there’s some monies there for that, and then — as well as utilities. That’s mostly what our direct assistance is.”
Board Chair Mike Wilson asked Fournier if — when someone calls inquiring about preventative assistance — they are required to have a plan in place to ensure they’re not continually in need of service. Fournier said that is the case. The goal of providing assistance is to help people stabilize, so they must have a plan to make sure that can happen.
“We want to make sure they’re going to have housing stability and this isn’t going to be something that’s happening,” she said. “Working with them on a budget, that’s a lot of what our housing case managers do, and having those conversations.”
Of the three counties served, about 60% of the funding goes to Crow Wing County. Morrison County receives about 25%, while Todd County makes up the other 15%. When asked why that is the case by Commissioner Greg Blaine, Fournier said the amount of funding is not specified by county, but is instead based on the number of calls and enrollments received from that area.
Based on the current biennium, she said the volume of calls for service has been much higher in Crow Wing County than Morrison or Todd. If the calls from Morrison County increased, Fournier said, it would split the percentage.
“It’s not that it’s awarded to different counties,” she said. “Actually, we just do it by households. so our outcomes for this next biennium is to serve 267 households in the three-county area. It’s not by the county. So, if more people call from Morrison County, the percentages will change.”
Blaine also asked Fournier to break down how much of the $822,200 LSS receives will go toward administrative costs.
Fournier said $82,220 — 10% — goes to an administrative fee over the course of two years. This helps LSS with all of the record-keeping and reporting duties it is legally required to fulfill.
Personnel costs, which includes mileage, supplies, copies, postage, training, office space and Homeless Management Information System licensure, will cost about $358,373.72, during the next biennium.
“Then for direct assistance which, again, I talked about, for rental payment assistance, mortgage payment assistance, rental deposit assistance, utility payment assistance, transportation expense assistance and then some rental application fees and then some vital documents such as helping individuals get their ID or social security card, the total is $381,606.28,” Fournier said. “We’re serving 267 households within the three-county area. That’s over two years.”