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Moscow’s Sojourners’ Alliance is in dire straits

Moscow community members pose for the cover shot of the Sojourners’ Alliance 2004 Calendar, a fundraiser for the nonprofit organization that helps homeless people in Moscow. Wednesday, the executive director confirmed a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has not been renewed. That means the shelter’s doors will close at the end of the month. (Rajah Bose / The Spokesman-Review)
Moscow community members pose for the cover shot of the Sojourners’ Alliance 2004 Calendar, a fundraiser for the nonprofit organization that helps homeless people in Moscow. Wednesday, the executive director confirmed a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has not been renewed. That means the shelter’s doors will close at the end of the month. (Rajah Bose / The Spokesman-Review)
By Chelsea Embree Lewiston Tribune

MOSCOW – The only homeless shelter in north central Idaho has lost federal funding needed to keep its doors open.

Steve Bonnar, executive director of Sojourners’ Alliance here, confirmed Wednesday that a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has not been renewed. That means the shelter’s doors will close when its current grant runs out at the end of the month.

“We’re behind an eight ball right now,” Bonnar said.

Sojourners’ Alliance provides transitional and permanent housing for the homeless. Bonnar said the federal government has set a goal to phase out transitional housing and implement rapid re-housing programs in an effort to more effectively use funds.

Transitional housing places people in temporary residences and provides any services they may need – including medical care, substance abuse treatment and job training – until they are able to secure permanent housing. Rapid re-housing, by comparison, provides people with rent money or down payment assistance to get them into permanent housing immediately, and then offers services if they are desired.

“We understood that this was going to come eventually – not as soon as it did, but that it was going to come, and that we had to change our priorities of how programs are funded,” Bonnar said

Because of the shift of focus, organizations that provide transitional housing dropped down a level in their ranking for federal funding priorities.

Bonnar received news Monday that Sojourners’, along with seven other similar shelters throughout the state, will not receive federal funding for the next year.

“I’ve been in my role here almost 10 years and this is the first time I’m aware of not having funds to fund some of the programs,” Bonnar said.

Sojourners’ currently houses 31 people, all of whom are positioned to face homelessness again June 1.

“My beef with this is, yes, it was coming, but 28 days is not enough time for us to help people transition,” Bonnar said.

Bonnar is looking for funding that will help people find other places to live in the short term. He has been in contact with Latah County Commissioner Tom Lamar, who said the commissioners will discuss the issue next week. The county budgets $10,000 annually toward Sojourners’.

The closure of the shelter could hit Latah County financially, Lamar said, noting law enforcement and medical costs may see a hit.

“If we can somehow save those costs by keeping people in homes, that’s a good thing,” Lamar said.

Lamar said monthly operational costs at Sojourners’ are between $10,000 and $12,000.

A GoFundMe page has been established to help raise funds. The page may be viewed and donations given at https://www.gofundme.com/22sd8es.

Late Wednesday, Lamar said the commissioners received an anonymous donation of $5,000 for Sojourners’ Alliance.

“That’ll be a very generous gift,” Lamar said. “If we can have that help us build that momentum and raise the rest, that’s going to be great.”

As far as funding sources available to keep Sojourners’ open on a long-term basis, Bonnar said he isn’t sure if more money will be available when the next grant cycle starts in October.

“It forces us, as an organization, to really re-examine what we’re doing and how we might find niches to still provide housing,” Bonnar said.

Embree may be contacted at cembree@lmtribune.com or (208) 669-1298. Follow her on Twitter @chelseaembree.

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