Thursday, January 05, 2006

Sweeney Lets his District Down, calls it a Success

Nice work, John. Good thing homeless people "don't vote."

Spinners, spinners, spinners

Capital Region homeless get less help from HUD

Federal funding cut to programs in area counties, though aid is up for state

By BRIAN NEARING, Staff writer
First published: Thursday, January 5, 2006

ALBANY -- When local politicians announced this year's federal aid to fight homelessness in the Capital Region, they lauded the award of $5.2 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Left unsaid was that the total package represents an 18 percent decrease from last year.

Programs in Albany, Rensselaer and Schenectady counties will receive about $4.7 million, a 27 percent drop from the $6.4 million provided in 2005, according to HUD figures.

Saratoga and Warren counties, which didn't apply for HUD aid in 2005, will receive about $590,000, with the lion's share of $436,000 going to the Glens Falls Housing Authority.

'I fought hard for these federal funds for New York and my district, and I will continue to fight for our fair share,' U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, said Tuesday, when the aid was announced.

Sweeney, who is vice chairman of the appropriation subcommittee that funds HUD's budget, highlighted a 2 percent statewide increase to $127.5 million. He said New York was among only a dozen states to get more money this year from HUD.

On Wednesday, Sweeney spokeswoman Melissa Carlson said the reduced aid figures in the Capital Region were 'good news' because HUD awarded grants based on which areas showed the most serious needs.

'This shows that the needs in our region are being addressed, and we are doing a bit better job ... than in other areas with greater needs,' Carlson said.

Some advocates for the homeless rejected Carlson's rosy outlook.

'That is doublespeak, for sure,' said Donna DeMaria, executive director of the Homeless Action Committee in Albany. 'There is more of a need to help the homeless than ever, and it is not being addressed.'

DeMaria's program will receive about $80,000 to pay for two workers to use a van to search out homeless people on the streets and bring them food, clothing, blankets and other supplies. Last year, DeMaria's committee received $210,000 from HUD.

'Each year, the allocation for programs in Albany County becomes a little less,' DeMaria said. 'It's definitely a problem.'

In Troy, Tracy Neitzel, executive director of Joseph's House and Shelter, said her organization was glad to get what it did. 'We were nervous that HUD is reducing the money it provides for services,' she said. 'Holding our own is good news.'

Neitzel said her group is using its aid to pay for workers who search the streets to find homeless people who are afraid to come into shelters for help.

During Sweeney's announcement in Clifton Park, Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings said he was pleased with the aid. 'This funding will strengthen my commitment to improving the quality of life for all residents,' Jennings, a Democrat, said in a statement released by Sweeney's office.

This year, 11 programs in Albany County will get about $1.9 million, down from $2.5 million in 2005 and $2.6 million in 2004.

The largest share goes to the Albany Housing Authority. It will get $433,000 this year, a reduction of about 63 percent from $1.2 million in 2005.

Attempts to reach Jennings for comment Wednesday were not successful.

Republican Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian also attended Sweeney's news conference to publicly thank the congressman. This year, six programs in Rensselaer County will receive $1.3 million, down from $1.76 million last year, a 26 percent drop. In 2004, HUD provided $2 million to programs in the county.

In Schenectady County, seven programs will get $1.49 million in 2006, down 30 percent from the $2.1 million to five programs in 2005. In 2004, the county's programs received $2.2 million.

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