Homeless Programs Face $2.3 Million Cuts, Elimination Of DCF Challenge Grants

In the Florida House of Representatives' proposed budgets for the upcoming year, homeless programs may be out of luck.

The chair of the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee proposes cutting $2,377,083 and thus eliminating the Homeless Coalition and Challenge Grants requested by the Florida Department of Children and Families.

DCF press secretary Erin Gillespie said the challenge grant money helps fund projects at the local level. The department also requested $340,000 for administrative costs for the Homeless Coalition. The House nixed their request, however, and a conference report combining both the House and Senate proposals has just $3 million allotte.

Gillespie said that $2 million will go to the United Way of Brevard County for local homeless coalitions, maxing at $66,000 each, and $1 million will be awarded to a veterans group. And that is all.

“There is money in there for [programs], but it wouldn’t replace the challenge grant,” she told HuffPost.

The lack of challenge grants is a critical problem for the Office of Homelessness at DCF, as funds help staff apply for federal grants that are sometimes matched locally, executive director Tom Pierce told the Florida Independent.

According to the 2011 executive summary written by the office’s Council on Homelessness, homelessness is rampant in Florida and its numbers rank it the third highest in the nation. Last year, there were 600,000 homeless people counted in Florida, not including the 49,000 school-aged children considered homeless by their schools in the 2009 to 2010 school year -- a 19 percent increase from the year before.

While Miami-Dade doesn’t have the highest number of homeless, the county sits in the top five for the county with 3,777 homeless counted in 2011.

Florida’s homeless epidemic received national attention last year, 60 Minutes reported on the homeless epidemic in Florida in “Hard Times Generation.” The crew returned months later to follow up with the families, where one 15-year-old girl said, “It’s only life. You do what you need to do, right?”

WATCH: AP reports on homeless students in Central Florida