Delayed payments hurting local HUD organization

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A group serving metro citizens who've battled homelessness and illness says federal budget cuts and delayed payments from Washington have left many of its clients dangerously behind on rent, and with some in danger of eviction.

SAVE, Inc. helps "medically and socially disadvantaged" people around the metro get and maintain safe housing. The group's CEO says budget cuts from the sequester and delayed payments from the department of Housing and Urban Development have left them short nearly $1 million dollars since April.

"We send out about $300,000 dollars a month in rental assistance," said CEO Zori Rodriguez. "We don't have $300,000 dollars a month for three or four months."

The organization has been forced to spend much of its savings to keep 700 clients in their homes and pay staff, but it missed August rent for several of its clients, and now angry phone calls are coming in from landlords fed up with delays.

"We had 40 calls the other day from landlords who initially were very understanding. Who do I call? Which legislator do I call? Those kinds of thing. But many of them are small business owners who rely on that money," Rodriguez said.

"We've gotten some pretty irate landlords recently who told us they're not going to work with us anymore. "

Sonny Gilbert is typical of those helped by Save, Inc. He moved home to Kansas City a decade ago from Arkansas, but the only bed he had was at the hospital. Diagnosed HIV positive and battling frequent bouts with pneumonia, he was referred to SAVE, Inc by a case worker. He says losing his apartment would shatter the life he's built.

"That means I gotta start all over somewhere. You know I'm too old to be starting over again," Gilbert said. "I'm cool, calm and collect here. Starting over at my age? I don't think I'll make it."

Rodriguez says the group has worked out deals with four landlords who have threatened evictions so far, and is hopeful that HUD grants will arrive as-promised soon. She worries, however, that more planned cuts could make next year's budget strain even worse.

"That's my biggest fear: that this is just the tip of the iceberg and what I've heard from across the country is its going to be worse next year," Rodriguez said. "And what do you do with people who are too sick to take care of themselves?"

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