Residents divvy funds for community needs

Local community service agencies are lining up this year to get a piece of a $300,000 pie of grant funding, but it’s up to residents to determine who gets which slices.

To ensure public support for the use of local funds, San Mateo began a process last year in which the community and city leaders decide which areas of the city are priorities for grant money. Tonight, the City Council and Community Relations Commission are holding a public hearing to gather input on what agencies should receive those funds.

“One of the challenges, administratively and for the council, is trying to address these community needs with ever-reducing funds federally,” Housing Specialist Heather Stewart said. “We have great service providers and we have a lot of needs in our community, and everyone is doing great work, but we have to set priorities.”

Of the just under $300,000 available, 75 percent is already earmarked for core services: basic needs, affordable housing, senior services and youth services. The public and the council determine the remaining quarter.

Money provided this fiscal year has helped one San Mateo agency move homeless residents out of city streets and parks and into safe, controlled housing where they can find help in securing work.

“The Vendome Hotel is visibly impacting homelessness, the people we’re taking in used to hang out in the Third and Fourth Avenue corridor and in Central Park,” Shelter Network Director of Programs Brian Greenberg said.

Shelter Network is receiving city money to run the renovated Vendome Hotel as support housing for formerly homeless residents. Some of the residents spent almost a decade on local streets before moving into the hotel. The hotel, a single-room occupancy building that traditionally caters to San Mateo’s poorest residents, is under the auspices of the city and Shelter Network.

Money from the city also enables Shelter Network to run the “First Step for Housing,” program at 325 Villa Terrace.

“The great majority of those people transition into permanent, market-rate housing, and there’s no way we would have been able to support them without the support of the city of San Mateo,” Greenberg said.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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