Daniel Zhao, Senior Photographer

New Haven city officials and residents are debating how to allocate over $6.5 million in potential grants funded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

On April 20, Mayor Justin Elicker published his recommendations for fund allocation. The city annually distributes funds from HUD as part of its Consolidated Housing and Community Development Annual Action Plan. Each year, the Mayor’s Office proposes the plan, the Board of Alders deliberates on it and then it is presented to HUD by Aug. 16. Funds come from HUD’s programs: the Community Development Block Grant, HOME Investment Partnerships, Emergency Solutions Grants and Housing Opportunities for Persons with HIV/AIDS.

Under this year’s Action Plan proposal, 82 organizations are slated to receive funding, while 8 applicants will not. Over the last two weeks, local nonprofit organizations have testified before the Board of Alders Joint Community Development and Health and Human Services Committee in support of their grant proposals, most of which received less funding under Elicker’s recommendations than what they requested — a trend that reflects the limited funds the city can ultimately receive from HUD. 

One by one, representatives testifying on behalf of their organizations stressed their group’s impact on vulnerable populations, children and a city recovering from a pandemic. These organizations included Inspired Communities, a New Haven nonprofit which aims “to disrupt the cycle of poverty through local community economic development, while empowering Newhallville and other underserved communities to advocate for themselves and their communities.”

“We are changing Newhallville’s narrative, so that people can build community and economic vibrancy,” Inspired Communities founder Kim Harris said at a hearing on Thursday. “We are for Newhallville, we are from Newhallville and we are at a door for community building possibilities.”

Inspired Communities applied for funding to staff their new Adult Institute, a program aimed at helping Newhallville residents find employment or start their own businesses, and for their Youth Institute, which organizes programming meant to help children develop their leadership skills.

In her testimony, Harris said teaching leadership to everyone — young and old — in underserved communities like Newhallville is important and empowering. She said that funding would also be important to ensure that the institutes can operate their programming into the evening hours, the time most convenient for community members. Extending its child care programming from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. would allow the institute to offer more programming for adults who work into the evening, Harris told the board.

“There’s not a lot going on, camps are out. Some children are left at home by themselves, to fend for themselves,” she said of the late afternoon and early evening hours. “With this particular program, we’re going to be opening the doors so that children will have opportunities between those hours.”

Inspired Communities originally applied for more than $73,000 and $80,000 for the Adult and Youth Institutes, respectively. Elicker’s proposal would allocate $10,000 to each.

Another organization requesting funding is local health and wellness clinic Clifford Beers. Under Elicker’s proposal, Clifford Beers would receive funds to help fund their Care Coordination program at New Haven Public Schools. According to its proposal, Care Coordination works with children who have “complex behavioral needs,” who show emotional disturbances, who require “intensive coordination of multiple services” to help assist with their needs and who are separated from their family or community.

Christine Montgomery, vice president of community and school-based services at Clifford Beers, noted that the pandemic has had a significant impact on children’s well-being, necessitating the need for programs like Care Coordination. And while Elicker’s proposal would award them $5,000, they have requested $15,000, triple the award amount.

“The needs for Care Coordination this year have been blown out — we received almost 300 referrals for Care Coordination this year from New Haven Public Schools,” Montgomery said, adding that in a typical year, Clifford Beers serves 70 families. “We’re now at a point where the need is exceeding our capacity.”

Funding through the Annual Action Plan is projected to stay constant from last year, when a similar figure of just over $6.5 million was distributed. Action Plans from fiscal year 2020-21 through fiscal year 2023-24 direct funds according to guidelines set by a five-year plan approved by the Board of Alders in May 2020. The plan’s 11 goals direct that funds be used to support community development, with a particular focus on health and economic development, housing and homelessness. A majority of the Action Plan proposal’s funds have gone toward programs in line with the 11 goals.

For fiscal year 2021-22, many grants center around housing. One of the organizations to receive funds, New Reach, works to ensure that “all children, families and individuals have a safe, secure, affordable home,” according to its website, by helping to provide short- and long-term housing options for those in shelters, working on eviction prevention programming and operating shelters in New Haven.

New Reach is requesting more than $73,000, but the mayor’s plan has allocated them $50,000.

“Our goal remains steadfast — on ensuring that homelessness is rare with prevention, brief via crisis services and one time via an array of housing,” New Reach’s T-J Ciocca said in her testimony. “Anyone who has any experience raising children knows just how much support is needed to help a youth navigate from dependence and the hurdles faced even with support.”

The Board of Alders will hold a second reading on the allocation plan on July 6.

Owen Tucker-Smith was managing editor of the Board of 2023. Before that, he covered the mayor as a City Hall reporter.