Lafayette social services cuts force tough choices

(WISH Photo, file)

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Social services agencies that have had to make difficult choices due to funding cuts in recent years are watching anxiously as Lafayette leaders prepare to craft a new five-year plan to address issues such as homelessness and economic development.

City officials will begin working on the plan in October in preparation for its submission to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in May. Among the things it will include is funding for housing and programs to help those living with the HIV virus or AIDS.

Lafayette receives two types of funds from HUD — HOME funds and Community Development and Building Grant funds. The money must be used to improve low- to moderate-income areas and to coordinate with local social service agencies.

In the last three years, the city has lost more than 18 percent of its community development grants and more than 23 percent of its HOME funds.

“We certainly have lost the ability to fund many of our social services programs,” city community development director Aimee Jacobsen told the Journal & Courier. “We sometimes have to make hard decisions.”

One victim of the cuts is the Riggs Community Health Center, which eliminated its health referral services program and laid off a full-time employee who oversaw it after the city declined to renew an $11,000 community development grant this year.

The program provided emergency medication and health care aide to low-income residents and was expected to serve almost 400 clients this year, according to the center’s grant request.

The city also was only able to provide rent and utility assistance to about 95 people at risk of homelessness, well short of its goal of 250.

City leaders say that despite the cuts, they’ve surpassed some of the goals outlined in a 2010 plan to address the needs of its homeless population.

The city has created 26 units of permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless, victims of domestic violence and homeless people with special needs. The plan called for 20 units.

The city also has supported case management for 6,505 people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, well above its initial goal of 1,000.

New grants have also helped offset the cuts. In October, social service agencies received grants to help veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Jennifer Layton, executive director of Lafayette Transitional Housing Center, said the grant helped soften the blow from other federal funding reductions.

“This increase has a direct impact on the continuation of services here at the homeless service program,” Layton said.

Doug Taylor, executive director of Habitat for Humanity, said his organization received $50,000 this year in community development grants for a new home repair program and $350,000 in HOME funds for its homeownership program. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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