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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Inconsistencies regarding the Marion County Homeless Council budget comments

After inconsistencies were stated by Commissioner Michelle Stone regarding the Marion County Homeless Council during the BOCC meeting on Tuesday, I sent this email to the Commissioners. SEVERAL statements made by Commissioner Stone were false. She has sat on the CoC Board for over 2 years and I would have hoped that she would have the correct information. I have copied and pasted by email below.


I wanted to take this opportunity to address some inconsistencies that were reported at the BOCC on 6/19/19 and provide some additional background information.
I am requesting that the MCHC also forward this email to the CoC Partners.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Many of the direct care agencies in Marion County do NOT follow the HUD Housing First guidelines – They do random drug screens or require that people living in their housing be in a treatment program. This is not allowed in the HUD Housing First Model. Therefore, there are only a handful of agencies that provide direct care in Marion County that apply for these HUD dollars.

HUD Housing First Description
“Housing First is an approach to quickly and successfully connect individuals and families experiencing homelessness to permanent housing without preconditions and barriers to entry, such as sobriety, treatment or service participation requirements. Supportive services are offered to maximize housing stability and prevent returns to homelessness as opposed to addressing predetermined treatment goals prior to permanent housing entry.”

Definitions for your information
CoC (Continuum of Care) by HUDs definition this is the group organized to carry out the responsibilities prescribed…for a defined geographic area.

CoC Board of Governors (or Directors) (BOG) are individuals from across the County who, together, guide the work of the CoC to end homelessness

Lead Agency or Collaborative Applicant is the entity that applies for grants and manages the required HUD processes on its behalf to ensure the maximum amount of funds are received

HMIS Lead is an organization that manages the HMIS system – does NOT have to be the Lead Agency – HMIS is the Homeless Management Information System
Direct Care Service Provider is an organization that provides direct services to the homeless or to help prevent homelessness

Rank and Review Committee is an independent group made up of local CoC members who look at applications for grant dollars [current members: Michael Blessing with Lutheran Services, Helen Urie with Marion County, and Anita Winters with Early Learning Coalition]. Dennis Yonce was formerly on the Rank and Review Committee. He now serves as Chair of the CoC Board of Governors as well as working for the City of Ocala doing Homeless Outreach. The Executive Director of MCHC attends the Rank and Review meetings in the capacity of the Lead Agency in case there are questions from the Rank and Review Committee. The MCHC/Lead Agency does NOT hold a voting position on the Rank and Review Committee as was erroneously stated.

Notes and comments from the Board of County Commissioners meeting on Tues, 6/18/19

The discussion begins at time mark 14:33 in the video (link below) with Martha Cieplinski’s presentation to the County Commissioners. Martha is the Board Chairman of the Marion County Homeless Council.


(begins at 18:40) Commissioner Stone asked Martha Cieplinski to explain her statement that “we lost funds because there were no local funds that HUD identified as ‘truly local’ that were included in eradicating homelessness in Marion County.”

Commissioner Stone wanted to know why there was not an accounting of other agencies funds that should have been counted. Martha responded that “If the CoC Lead Agency asks for those dollar amounts, and those are not reported, then they can’t be included” in the figures to HUD.

  • Emails were sent out 2/12/19 and 2/20/19 from the Lead Agency asking for the local funds from the City and the County that had been utilized to reduce/end homelessness in Marion County.
  • The request email for the County was sent to Cheryl Martin, Michelle Stone and Donnie Mitchell
  • The request email for the City was sent to Dennis Yonce
  • The County responded on 2/20/19 and gave only information for pass through grants (ESG, etc) but no information for the local funds.
  • The City did not respond
  • DCF’s rating of leverage was specific to what buy-in local government has as demonstrated by use of community funds to combat homelessness. Because this information was not provided, by the County or the City, it negatively affected our ‘leverage’ score
  • Also, of note – the City does NOT participate in coordinated entry by adding clients served into the HMIS system

(begins at 20:38) Commissioner Zalak commented that the PPI Study stated a goal of reducing homelessness in Marion County by 60% over the next five years. He said that at this point what the County and City have done is put a proposal together for the CoC to consider as an alternative to the current Lead Agency.

(Begins at 21:52) Angela Juaristic made the statement that the reason that the budget was requested was the County’s proposal indicated that $700,000 would move with any change in lead agency. Today’s budget and presentation were at the request of Commissioner Stone after Martha Cieplinski sent an email to all the County Commissioners letting them know that the presentations presented by Cheryl Martin, on behalf of the County Commissioners, had incorrect dollar amounts.

NOTE: (A little over $160,000 go directly to direct care providers in Marion County (Shepherd’s Lighthouse and the MCHC, as a direct care provider). These funds show as HUD dollars for Marion County on the website, but don’t pass through the CoC. These contracts with HUD are with the direct care providers individually, and those funds are drawn down by that direct care provider. The funds are NOT distributed through the Lead Agency)

(Begins at 22:00) Commissioner Bryant asked “with the proposal that money WOULD move, wouldn’t it?”

(Begins at 22:20) Commissioner Stone stated that the ‘administrative’ money would move. Commissioner Stone continued saying that she has been on the CoC Board for 2+ years, at the request of the Commissioners. She said that for those 2+ years that she has asked for a breakdown of “the CoC budget and the expenses and the Lead Agency budget and what those expenses are, and she has not received those documents. [NOTE: The Lead Agency IS the CoC, so it is the SAME budget and SAME expenses]

Commissioner Stone stated that this is the first time she has been given those documents.
Financial documents were provided to the CoC on these dates:

  • December 2017 – profit and loss statements (Jan–Sept 2017)
  • May 2018 – full years accounting provided (Jan-Dec 2017)
  • June 2018 – revenue sources and expenditures (Jan–Mar 2018)
  • October 2018 – profit and loss statements (Apr–Jun 2018) along with the Independent Auditors Report for calendar year 2017
  • December 2018 – Revenue and Expenditures from (Jul-Sept 2018)
  • June 2019 – (Jan-Mar 2019) Profit and Loss

Commissioner Stone feels that it should be easy to provide revenue streams. To clarify – grants are very fluid, as I am sure you are aware. Grants that were written a couple of years ago, to fill a specific need, (a HMIS coordinator, for example) expire – or that funding is reduced. It is then necessary for the MCHC to find other grants to pay for that position. – Sometimes it takes two grants to meet the needs of the CoC, and service Marion County. The MCHC has continued to apply for, and been awarded, grants to over existing expenses.

Of note from the information provided by Angela Juaristic:

  • The first four pages break down the dollars which go to the Lead Agency.
  • $107,142 goes to the lead agency for staffing and operational expenses.
  • HUD planning grant dollars of $44,300 are only until September 2019.
  • THEN beginning on October 1, 2019 funds will go to payment of specific percentages towards five different staff members.
  • The Lead Agency receives two grants for administration of the HMIS data system.
  • Beginning July 1, 2019 (based on the recommendation of the Rank and Review Committee) one of these grants will be reduced by $5,684.78. – This changes the two grants to $135,491.
  • The amount of funds already earmarked by current agreements/contracts, is just over $290,000.
  • It is important to note that these funds are not automatically given in a lump sum. The staffing dollars are provided in a set monthly allotment that arrives 6-8 weeks AFTER the required reporting and back-up documentation is processed by the State.
  • One of the HMIS grants is from the State and is reimbursed with a 6-8-week delay.
  • Both the HUD HMIS and the HUD planning grant dollars must be requested in increments from the ELOCC system monthly or as funds are expended .(SEE pages 13 and 14 of the documents provided)

As you can see, Commissioners, this is not something that can be presented in a normal spreadsheet.

Commissioners – This is what Martha Cieplinski was trying to explain with the MSTU analogy. (Begins at 24:40)

  • Small, specific MSTU projects are set up every year. The administrative fee for each project is earmarked in the County budget and can be identified. BUT if you had to break that fee down into specific allocations, that may prove more difficult. For example: if you had to say the administrative fee charged for paving the streets of “subdivision A” paid for electricity, phones and vehicle maintenance – that might prove a much harder task. And then you add the MSTU projects B, C, D, E, F, etc. for 2018 – AND add to that trying to pull out those ‘specific’ expenses for different projects in 2017…..and 2016…….the task becomes more daunting. Add to that you might have vehicle maintenance for vehicle 1 in 2016 and part of 2017 – then another vehicle was purchased, and THAT vehicle is now ‘charged’ under the MSTU line item in the budget for the rest of 2017 and 2018.
  • This is how the administrative costs for the MCHC as the Lead Agency works: “Grant A” pays for electricity & phones and because of the amount, we were also able to ear mark ‘part’ of the rent. “Grant B” pays for the rest of the rent and for the employee who does the training on the HMIS system. BUT the employee that does the training also works IN the HMIS system, she doesn’t ONLY do training. So, another part of her salary comes from a different grant. And then that grant period ends and there are now NEW grants that pay for those things. It’s very fluid.

Commissioner Stone’s comments (begin at 26:00)

“…We’re already getting the dollars. We pass them over to the lead agency. The lead agency is then to oversee the contracts with the direct service providers. Those contracts should have a sheet of paper attached to them in one good breakout where those revenue streams come in and where they go out and how much is still available under each grant and what is planned for those contracted services.”

[The County DOES get grants BUT the grants that the MCHC, as the Lead Agency, obtains do NOT pass through the County. To bolster those grant dollars, we needed the information NOT provided by the local government for our ranking.]

(Begins 32:00) Commissioner Stone begins to talk about her visits to “Lexington, KY as well Miami/Dade and several others where the County is that lead agency seems to work so much easier and so much more transparent…”

  • Miami/Dade – a trip was made a couple of years ago to Miami/Dade to look at how they are handling the homeless problem in that area.
  • Lexington, KY – a trip was recently made to Lexington to look at how they are handling the homeless problem in their area.
  • Commissioner Stone mentioned “several others” – I am not aware of any other government run Lead Agency visits that have occurred
  • Miami/Dade and Lexington, Ky aren’t Marion County – we don’t have a beverage tax like Miami/Dade and don’t have the Medicaid expansion dollars utilized by Lexington, KY to use to combat homelessness.

(Begins 33:07) Commissioner Stone mentions speaking with Cheryl Martin after the meeting on Monday with the small committee that was formed by the CoC – ……That the information provided did not account for $161,270. [These dollars are NOT part of the lead agency budget and would NOT go to a new lead agency if one is chosen.]

  • As already mentioned in an earlier comment, this money was awarded DIRECTLY to service providers in Marion County and does not ‘run through’ the CoC budget. Shepherd’s Lighthouse receives $104,208 that they pull down directly from HUD. The MCHC (as a direct care provider) receives $33,446 and $23,259 for current permanent housing projects.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Shelia Arnett
Board Member, Marion County Homeless Council