Denton City Hall

Denton City Hall

Housing and shelter for people experiencing homelessness soon may see more local funding through the American Rescue Plan.

In a presentation Tuesday to the City Council, Denton city staff members showed initiatives to help people experiencing homelessness, and a survey of residents found that funds for temporary alternative housing are among topics they considered most important.

New relief funds through the American Rescue Plan are intended to be used to respond to COVID-19 or its economic impacts, replace revenue lost due to the pandemic, provide premium pay to eligible workers and invest in water, sewer, storm water and broadband infrastructure. The $1.9 trillion federal relief package will disburse $350 billion to local governments this year and next year in two installments.

“We could be inventing a new thing, or we could be supplementing, offsetting or adding to the general fund expenditures that we would do anyway,” Dani Shaw, the city’s community services director, said Tuesday.

Denton’s director of finance, Cassie Ogden, said the city will receive a total of $23.29 million over the next two years. The first relief tranche of that check, about $11.65 million, is sitting in a bank account waiting to be used. The rest will be disbursed next year.

“We’re really trying to focus on solutions that have immediate impact,” Ogden said.

A citizen survey of 243 people — 95% of whom were Denton residents — showed most respondents wanted funding to go toward homelessness and shelter initiatives as well as vaccine clinic support and behavioral health programs.

Funding for a future shelter on Loop 288 was at the top of city staff’s list Tuesday. Ryan Adams, a spokesperson for the city, confirmed Tuesday that the $5 million figure in estimated funding in the presentation to staff is how much more the project is expected to cost, and not necessarily the amount staff is recommending to invest in the project through these new funds.

The building at 909 N. Loop 288, which will be operated by Our Daily Bread Together with Monsignor King Outreach Center, will cost about $8.8 million to reconstruct as a shelter. The city already had about $2 million set aside for the project, and city staff said in April that Our Daily Bread had committed $881,000 to the project.

The city staff is still housing people experiencing homelessness in local hotels, a procedure that began after local shelters had to scale back capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The estimated amount to continue funding this program is $550,000.

“The hotel voucher program is an extension of emergency response to people experiencing homelessness and a reduction of shelter beds,” Shaw said Wednesday. “We extended that [program] through [community block grant] funds. What we’d like to do is continue to extend that through December 2022.”

Next December is the projected date for the Loop 288 shelter to begin operation.

A proposed budget for priority programs is scheduled to come back to the City Council on Sept. 21.

ZAIRA PEREZ can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @zairalperez.

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