HYANNIS — Responding to concerns that a lack of resources is a "dark cloud" over their work to prevent homelessness, U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., told a group of housing advocates yesterday he is confident he can persuade Gov. Deval Patrick to send some just-arrived stimulus money in their direction.
"I will see the governor soon, so keep hope alive," Delahunt told about 25 people at a roundtable discussion about homelessness at Housing Assistance Corporation yesterday.
In particular, Delahunt promised to ask the governor to restore funding to Cape Cod programs that prevent families from becoming homeless.
"This has got nothing to do with compassion or altruism," Delahunt said. "It's about the bottom line."
Since 2003, the state has set aside roughly $300,000 annually for Cape Cod nonprofits to help families get back on track from temporary financial setbacks such as unexpected medical bills or car repairs that can snowball into eviction or foreclosure.
In fiscal 2010,HAC said it kept 244 Cape families in their homes for $249,000. Since fiscal 2005, HAC officials said they have spent, on average, just under $1,600 per family — far less than the average $4,000 that the state spends to house a homeless family in a motel for a month.
Statewide, about 700 people are living in motels paid for by the state, but on the Cape, no homeless families are in motels, housing advocates said.
"Financially it is ridiculous," to pay for families to stay in motels instead of preventing them from becoming homeless in the first place, said Allison Rice, vice president for operations at HAC.
"It's a model that deserves to be examined and modeled elsewhere," Delahunt said.
HAC officials said they have felt the funding pinch since February 2009, when the state announced it would cut all the money for the program, but some services have been kept alive through private donations and stimulus funding.
"It's an important issue for the Cape, and it's certainly the most cost-effective way to "» make sure people don't lose their housing," said state Rep. Matthew Patrick, D-Falmouth, who lobbied unsuccessfully to protect the state funding for the program.
State Senate candidate James Crocker, who attended the roundtable discussion, pledged that he would work to support funding HAC's mission if elected.
"I just don't want to see all the good works going backwards," the Barnstable Town Council member said at the forum.
Gov. Patrick is expected to decide "very soon" how he will appropriate $450 million in new federal stimulus money, which has to be spent this fiscal year, said spokesman Cyndi Roy, who declined to give specifics about the governor's timeline.
Delahunt's pledge came as advocates described their worries ranging from veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq who cannot find jobs to elderly people taking on reverse mortgages.
His pledge to lobby the governor comes at the twilight of his 13-year career representing the 10th District in the House of Representatives.
At the end of the roundtable, HAC president and CEO Frederic B. Presbrey presented the congressman with a broom and dustpan — to "help clean up" Washington, he said.
On the dustpan was an engraved plaque: "Don't get swept away with the joys of retirement," it said.