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City’s ARPA committee recommends $1.1M for Safe to Sleep shelter 

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When the city of Springfield offered funding for emergency shelters for homeless people, three agencies applied, but only two – The Salvation Army and Women’s Medical Respite – were recommended by city staff for $1.9 million in funding at City Council’s Jan. 8 meeting.

After objection from the CEO of the third applicant, the Council ARPA Review Committee on Jan. 11 found an additional $1.1 million in funding for the third applicant, Council of Churches of the Ozarks Inc., which is seeking a permanent home for its Safe to Sleep shelter for women. 

The two previously recommended allocations are up for a vote at council’s Jan. 22 meeting. The new recommendation to fund the Council of Churches proposal is slated to have its public hearing and vote at council’s two February meetings. 

Council heard a recommendation at its Jan. 8 meeting to award roughly $1.8 million to The Salvation Army in Springfield to build a new Harbor House facility and nearly double its capacity to 100 beds, according to the staff report.  

Additionally, the requested $29,000 by Women’s Medical Respite would cover expenses related to its newly purchased five-bedroom house and increase its capacity to eight beds from five. 

The Council of Churches project, which would have shifted 50 existing beds to a new facility without adding any capacity, did not score high enough on the rubric established for the grant to be recommended for funding, according to City Grants Administrator Bob Jones. 

Jones said the proposals were evaluated by a five-member staff committee who used a ranking sheet.  Numerical scores were based on evidence of experience with shelter operations, capacity, experience with federal grant funding, a cumulative increase in shelter beds, project readiness and other factors, for a total of 10 categories. The Salvation Army proposal received a score of 450, with the Women’s Medical Respite scoring 400 and the Council of Churches proposal scoring 350, Jones said. 

Jones said Council of Churches’ application had some deficiencies. Specifically, the number of shelter beds would not be increased with the move, and he said site control was a factor. The application included an unsigned right of first refusal document for a property, but a firm agreement on a purchase was not in the packet. 

Jaimie Trussell, Council of Churches’ CEO, stepped to the podium at the Jan. 8 meeting to object to the lack of funding for Safe to Sleep. 

She noted the proposed project already has been approved for $1.9 million in funding from the state of Missouri’s Department of Economic Development. 

“I was surprised … to learn that our city did not have a similar confidence,” she said. 

Council’s ARPA committee, headed by Councilmember Matthew Simpson, voted to provide the entire $1.1 million requested for Safe to Sleep. That allocation must first be approved by City Council in a separate measure in February and would come from the city’s unallocated balance of ARPA funds, which is $2.57 million. 

In an interview after the committee meeting, Trussell expressed her appreciation for the committee’s vote allowing an additional allocation. 

“We’re delighted to work with City Council to find a way to bring this important project to fruition,” she said. “It is the first step toward a powerful solution for women experiencing emergency homelessness. Should we be approved for funding, the real work begins.” 

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