U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy have asked Ben Carson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to ensure nonprofits affected by the 35-day shutdown receive the federal grant money they earned.
In a Thursday letter to Carson, the senators highlighted Noank Community Support Services, a Groton nonprofit that helps adults with chronic mental illness, young adults who are homeless and children in foster care.
The nonprofit last fall was awarded $340,000 in federal grant money to launch a homeless shelter for 18- to 24-year-olds — the only such shelter in southeastern Connecticut.
However, Executive Director Regina Moller said the nonprofit had to take several time-consuming steps before it could access the money. It had notarized and submitted the final form to the Hartford HUD office for approval when the government partially shut down Dec. 22.
Federal employees returned to work Monday after President Donald Trump on Jan. 25 agreed to reopen the government through Feb. 15. Negotiations on border security — the main cause of the shutdown — are ongoing.
Moller said Friday that HUD officials had promised to expedite Noank’s access to the money but it wasn’t yet available.
As such, the nonprofit has been paying five employees and funding food, toiletries and other expenses on its own since Nov. 1. Donations of goods and money have helped sustain the shelter.
“The recent lapse in appropriations caused financial strain for the valuable, often lifesaving work of nonprofits in Connecticut that offer support for vulnerable families, women and children,” the senators wrote in their letter. “We seek your commitment to ensuring HUD will take the appropriate steps to provide these nonprofits with the allocated grant money they missed as a result of the shutdown.”
Speaking by phone Friday, Blumenthal said he and Murphy would demand a response from Carson if he doesn’t provide one voluntarily.
“It’s immensely infuriating to have to retread this ground when we already proved the value of these nonprofits” by awarding them the grants, Blumenthal said.
“But we will,” he said. “These places are where people go when they have nowhere else. (The Noank shelter) may only have nine beds, but it’s vital to the safety net of southeastern Connecticut.”
The shelter, known as the Main Street House, began operating on a pilot basis in September 2017 before expanding last fall. Residents live as a family, work with a case manager and are directed to mental health, addiction, housing and employment services.
Moller said none of the 26 young adults served so far has returned to homelessness.
Kayla Laing, the shelter’s youth navigator, said clients are amazed when they learn about the shelter.
“They’re like, 'Wow, I didn’t know this existed,'” she said last month. “This population needs that extra assistance in part because, as research shows, their brains are not fully developed. One night in that adult shelter and they can make connections to the wrong people.”