Wednesday, June 24, 2009

After the bad news - a challenge

When the United Way email finally arrived yesterday morning, Carson Dean seemed relieved. It wasn't that his Uptown Shelter for men was spared by funding cuts - in fact, three of his programs lost half their money. "We were bracing for the worst," he says. "What we ended up getting was kind of what we were expecting."

The cuts to Uptown Men's Shelter reflected United Way's larger philosophy this year: critical needs, such as Dean's emergency shelter, were largely spared. Other programs, such as the Uptown Shelter's substance abuse, mental health and transitional housing program, suffered.

"At the end of the day," says Dean, "that's probably fair."

But while few are questioning the United Way's funding priorities - yet - yesterday's announcement was a reminder of its limitations. Less than a third of United Way funded agencies tackle emergency needs such as homelessness, and even those get much of their money elsewhere.

At Uptown Shelter, United Way money and county support account for only a third of the budget. The rest comes from private donors, including churches, and those givers are struggling in this harsh economy.

Meanwhile, the shelter is filled to its 268-bed capacity each night, as is its sibling year-round shelter, the Salvation Army's Center of Hope for women and children. About 5,000 others are on the streets.

There's a need not only for beds, but for programs that will get people off the street and out of the shelter. Yesterday's cuts made a difficult task a little harder.

So why relief? Because Dean now knows what he's working with. He says he'll redouble his efforts for private donations. And now, oddly, the United Way cuts have created a crisis that's focused the community on need, perhaps more than ever.

"We have to figure out how to overcome it," Dean says. "That's our next challenge."

From our media partners:

WFAE-FM 90.7 looks at some of the impact of the United Way cuts on emergency needs. Mike Collins will talk at 9 a.m. today about slashes in the state budget with the Observer's Mark Johnson and Dr. Gary Rassel, Assoc. Professor of Political Science at UNC Charlotte. offers the Mooresville-Lake Norman perspective on the cuts.


Anonymous said...

I would LOVE to know all of the so-called 'programs' that are being cut??? More than likely, they were not needed in the first place, and are just a way to funnel money around.