Alderman wants to shut door on migrating homeless

At the Nov. 6 Rockford City Council meeting, aldermen debated the city’s 2007 Draft Action Plan for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program on a range of issues.

Coming out of committee, the plan before the council had been amended to transfer $92,000 from the Emergency Shelter Grant to the Human Services Department.

Ald. Victory Bell (D-5), who is chairman of the Planning and Development Committee, put it up for vote but said, “I would prefer that it was going in without the amendment.”

Ald. Jeff Holt (D-11), however, fears too many dollars are being spent serving people from outside the city.

“My concern is,” Holt expressed, referencing a Human Services report and anecdotal evidence, “Rockford is not only serving its own homeless population, but it’s also attracting the homeless of other communities.”

Holt wants the Human Services Department to administer the $92,000 only to those who can prove Rockford residency.

“I’m not so sure that Ald. Holt’s requested amendment is going to address his concern regarding whether or not individuals come to this community to receive any type of assistance,” Ald. Linda McNeely (D-13) argued. “I don’t think any community can control it to that point.”

Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) noted, “People walk in, and they may not have a permanent address.” The mayor said the city would need to explore the legalities and discuss the issue with Housing and Urban Development.

In the end, the council passed the plan unamended, but with the understanding that it could be changed at any time in the coming months leading up to the new budget.

Before the night was over, Holt entered a new resolution for safeguards to ensure Emergency Shelter Grants would help Rockford residents, while discouraging homeless coming from other areas.

Ald. Holt also expressed concerns that $176,000 less was being budgeted toward demolition. Holt said, according to a study, more than 1,000 homes in blighted areas are in need of demolition or rehabilitation. Holt went on to point out not a single dollar had been put toward flood assistance.

The city is appealing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) decision to deny flood relief funds.

Ald. McNeely agreed with Holt and offered that some money for other programs should be spared to help.

“I’m sure that we all enjoy art,” McNeely said, “but at this time, we certainly need to look at inspectors, demolition of properties, and the flood victims that more than likely will not be assisted by FEMA.”

From the Nov.8-14, 2006, issue

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