Although you won’t find the stereotypical homeless person under a bridge in Blue Springs much, said Community Services League CEO Doug Cowan, you will discover there are a number of families experiencing a financial crisis.
Cowan, along with Melodie Chrisman of CSL, has requested a $20,000 Community Development Block Grant from the city of Blue Springs to help expand the social services agency’s operations specifically in town.
Should the city grant CSL’s request, the organization would receive funding for one additional day of operation (it is currently open on Tuesdays and Thursdays only) and direct financial assistance for rent, utilities and mortgage payments to low-income individuals and families who are on the brink of eviction or foreclosure.
The federal grant, if CSL receives it, will only be used for legal residents of Blue Springs and to help pay the salary and benefits of a new case manager, who will be needed in order for the organization to operate a third day in a week, according to the written CSL proposal.
“We need to be open a third day,” Chrisman told the Council on Monday, citing the increase of people seeking CSL services in Blue Springs. She described the Blue Springs poor as not being a homeless man just looking for quick handout in order to stay the night at a motel, but actually single-parent families struggling to make ends meet. These mothers or fathers and their children might appear to be financially secure on the outside, but in reality they are on the verge of losing everything, whether due to spiraling debt or continuous unemployment.
Cowan added there is an increase of the working poor in Blue Springs.
“The elderly are seeking help as well,” he also said. “Living expenses have gone up. Pensions and other retirement funds do not cover all of the bills. They are also on a very fixed income.”
CSL provides three core services: Emergency assistance for basic needs, which include funds for rent and utilities; Work Express, CSL’s employment placement program and being a house counselor.
“This is not just a food pantry, but also a HUD-certified housing counselor,” Cowan told the Council about CSL.
With the economy still struggling, Cowan said the CDBG grant would provide direct relief for Blue Springs residents in need, thus keeping them in the community.
“Our biggest need is to expand in Blue Springs.”
The council made no formal decision on whether to award CSL the grant funds. The social services agency is among 10 projects under consideration by the city for 2014-15 CDBG funding. A decision should be made by the council before the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development August deadline.