Friday, May 28, 2010

County grant update

Here's an update on Hope Alive's County grant status. I learned on Monday that the only opportunity we'd have to appeal the board's decision to cut Hope Alive's grant would be at the Board of County Commissioners' weekly work session. Resident Monica and I attended Thursday morning's session and both spoke on behalf of Hope Alive.

I emphasized the significant increase we're seeing in requests for services with a 36% increase from January to April over the same period last year. I talked about our current financial position of operating on a bare bones budget from a 28% reduction in 2009 forcing us to reduce the number of families we can serve in 2010 until we raise more funds. I stressed our need for the County's recommended $6,678 grant-in-aid so we can continue offering core services for our community's homeless families. As I told the Commissioners and shared in last week's blog, this grant equates to 508 bednights that we cannot provide this year if the grant is not reinstated for FY2011. I asked the board to reverse their decision and vote to reinstate the recommended grant-in-aid to Hope Alive.

Commissioners Gardner, Young, and Gray recognized the important service Hope Alive provides to the community and praised us for the significant work we've accomplished in our short 3 1/2 years since opening our doors. Monica followed my comments by sharing her devastating struggle of homelessness and said that without Hope Alive she would be dead - literally. She eloquently urged the Commissioners to vote to reinstate our grant so no other family would have to face what she was able to avoid.

You may have read in Thursday's Gazette the formal stand the Commissioners have taken against Commissioner Thompson's actions of requesting 12 nonprofit organizations to sign letters of credit for repayment of their grant awards to fund the employee's retirement trust. Hope Alive was one of those nonprofits that received Commissioner Thompson's email and letter of credit. Thankfully, Citizens Services and Commissioner Gardner confirmed that this was not sent from the board and Commissioner Thompson acted alone. No further comment here about this strange action by our esteemed public official.

The Commissioners have heard your voice - so thank you so much for your advocacy on our behalf. The final budget vote will occur next Tuesday, June 1. We are so grateful for the support and encouragement received through this process from so many wonderful county employees, elected officials and of course our wonderful Hope Alive supporters. When Monica and I left the hearing room, we felt completely at peace - leaving it in God's hands as to what the final outcome would be.

I've written a lot lately about the needs we're seeing in the community. May will be one more month that we'll see more than 30 requests for services so the increase over last year continues to rise.

Have a great holiday weekend. Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, May 20, 2010

County cuts Hope Alive's grant

You may have read in today's Frederick News Post that Hope Alive’s recommended $6,678 grant from Frederick County Grants to Human Service’s program was eliminated from the FY2011 County budget based on a 3-2 vote by the County Commissioners (Commissioners Gardner and Hagen voted against the cut). According to the News Post, Commissioner David Gray changed his vote yesterday to partially restore funding to the Frederick Arts Council and the Frederick County Hepatitis Clinic. We are advocating on our behalf – and ask that you help in this effort – to have Hope Alive’s $6,678 grant restored to the FY2011 County budget. Here’s why …

1. Hope Alive is a “first-tier” primary service provider for Frederick County's homeless population. Frederick County needs Hope Alive to serve the growing number of homeless families.
2. From January to April of 2010, Hope Alive saw a 36% increase in requests for services over the same period in 2009.
3. The County grant of $6,678 may only be 5.6% of our operating budget for family shelter services, however, the impact will be significant with our already strained operating budget that has prohibited us from operating at full capacity in 2010.
5. This grant amount represents 508 bednights that will not be available for Frederick County’s homeless women and their children.
6. We already have an underserved homeless population in Frederick County and this will further reduce available services to meet the desperate needs of homeless families.

We understand the County budget balanced before the cuts to nonprofits were made. These cuts go against Frederick County’s Grants to Human Services program recommendations. There was no appeal process or time for public comment for affected nonprofits.

Please help advocate for Hope Alive’s critically needed shelter services by contacting Commissioner David Gray by close of business Monday, May 24. We know that with God all things are possible. Thanks for your committed support to Hope Alive and the families who are struggling to survive right here in our own backyard. With your help, let’s watch what God can do! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pomp and Circumstance

Da ... Da Da Da Da ... Da ... In case you didn't recognize that tune, it's Pomp and Circumstance - a song we're humming a lot these days at Hope Alive.

Next week we're celebrating two major graduations! One resident mom is graduating with her high school diploma from Frederick County Public School's Adult Education Program. Earlier the same day, another resident mom is graduating from Maryland's Drug Court. After much hard work and determination to change the course of their lives, these two very special women have much to celebrate! Other women at Hope Alive - and especially new families to the program - are encouraged by these women's accomplishments and believe their own lives can be different with the same determination.

As I've shared in recent blogs, the needs of homeless families in the community are increasing significantly. January to April of this year was a 36% increase in phone inquiries from homeless families over the same period last year. In the past week, we've heard of three families - including a total of 9 children - living in motels. We rushed one family through our intake process as they were on their last day of motel placement by the Department of Social Services. Their next move would be to the streets. This new mom is starting her GED work next Monday - a dream she thought she'd never fulfill. And with the example of our two graduates, she'll be even more encouraged on her new journey to hope and a future.

More graduations will follow soon with two more families successfully completing Hope Alive's residential program! I thank God for giving us reason to sing!

Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director