© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bloomington-Normal organizations miss out on homeless services funding

Exterior of 201 East Grove Street, the building that houses PATH, Inc. Signage for PATH is shown in the bottom right.
Melissa Ellin
PATH Inc. has been in Bloomington for 53 years. It's the current lead for the Central Illinois Continuum of Care that spans several counties, including McLean.

A Bloomington-based nonprofit and lead for a federal program geared toward ending homelessness missed a grant application deadline. Now, McLean County social services organizations are feeling the effects of missed funding opportunities.

PATH Inc. — the organization in question — has had its share of ups and downs over the past year with high staff turnover across senior leadership positions, including the combined CEO and executive director role.

Despite this, the nonprofit remained the regional head of a federal program through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) called the Continuum of Care (CoC). PATH oversees the Central Illinois CoC that covers McLean County and several surrounding counties.

As lead, PATH manages grant applications and allocations for homeless services. Liam Wheeler, newly-appointed grant administrator for homeless services at the organization said missing the deadline for fiscal year 2023 on behalf of some organizations is "a little devastating for our community."

“Essentially, someone just didn’t click submit on an application,” he said. “And it’s a small error, but one that cost us greatly.”

This happened before Wheeler was at PATH and current Interim CEO Adam Carter took over.

In fiscal year 2022, central Illinois was awarded nearly $990,000 from HUD across eight grants. For fiscal year 2023, awards totaled just under $670,000 across three grants.

Wheeler added that PATH itself didn’t receive a grant that it historically has been gifted.

“So even our own company is going to be severely impacted,” he said.

The Salvation Army of McLean County

In addition to PATH, The Salvation Army of McLean County lost out on more than $90,000 that would have paid case managers who support people staying in the shelter.

JoAnna Callahan, the regional social service director with Salvation Army, said while the local chapter has received this funding for over a decade, the organization isn’t in dire straits. There was room in the budget to accommodate the loss of the grant.

“There's always the possibility that something may happen: the funding source may switch, what priorities that they're going to be funding that year,” she explained.

Callahan added that Salvation Army in Bloomington is mindful of spending since repairs expenses — including for a recently burst pipe — would now come from the same pool of money.

She noted the “timing is kind of unfortunate” because the nonprofit was recently short on its Red Kettle fundraising campaign of $650,000. The group raised $618,000.

“It was a wealthy goal, though, and we’re really thankful for all the funds that we do raise,” said Callahan, adding that these dollars go back to the local programs and staff.

Mid Central Community Action

Mid Central Community Action [MCCA] in Bloomington is fundraising to pay rent on six housing units in Mayors Manor that lost funding.

Unlike Salvation Army, Executive Director Tami Foley said MCCA had an expiration date on its grant, but had been looking to PATH to help secure another funding source.

“Our residents that had that funding have no way to pay their rent,” Foley said.

Mayors Manor is already hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to Mid Central, said Foley, adding MCCA is willing to go into more debt to keep people housed.

PATH's new Grants Administrator for Homeless Services is Liam Wheeler. He visited WGLT studios to talk about the Central Illinois Continuum of Care.
Melissa Ellin
PATH Inc. Grants Administrator for Homeless Services Liam Wheeler.

“Even if we don’t have funding to keep them there, we’ll keep them there,” she explained.

Other impacts

Other organizations in McLean County impacted include the Crisis Nursery housed in Brightpoint and Recycling Furniture For Families in Bloomington.

While the Recycling Furniture For Families executive director declined to talk to WGLT, Wheeler with PATH said he knows the group “needed that money.”

“We have failed him on that regard,” said Wheeler, referring to the executive director. “It’s pretty painful.”

And areas outside McLean County in the Central Illinois CoC might feel greater loss because they already have fewer resources than Bloomington-Normal. Wheeler pointed to organizations in Kankakee and Lincoln.

He said he doesn’t think anyone else in the CoC was informed of grants they might have been eligible for, which is part of the CoC lead’s duties.

“It's not only that people have lost out on funding, but that new players haven't been invited to compete for that same funding,” Wheeler explained.

Next steps

As PATH and other organizations move forward, everyone is looking to fundraise.

Foley with MCCA said she’s been collaborating with the Illinois Housing Development Authority to see what grants the organization might be eligible for, though that funding wouldn’t come in immediately.

MCCA is continuing to work with PATH to find alternatives while fundraising internally.

Foley added that with Wheeler in charge, things will likely “change quickly, and we’ll get back to where we need to be with the CoC.”

Callahan with Salvation Army called the Red Kettle campaign a “blessing.” Although if the group didn’t necessarily meet its goal, she said the funds would help the organization recover.

Wheeler said he’s exploring alternative grant opportunities for everyone in the continuum, including “different sources of funding that we have never applied for,” adding he and others working in the homeless services division at PATH are looking to bring new organizations into the mix as well.

“It's heartbreaking that it took this and a completely new team and fresh eyes to walk into someone else's problem and to correct that,” he said. “But we're not hiding from that, and we know what we need to do.”

Melissa Ellin is a reporter at WGLT and a Report for America corps member, focused on mental health coverage.