JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Hundreds rely on the Sulzbacher Center for a place to sleep and a meal to eat. Many say it's a saving grace for homeless women, children, and families. This week steep cuts threatened the center where 80 single women sleep. But Action News learned late this Tuesday that reps with the mayor's office found an alternative source of funding to keep those beds open.
“You could argue that some homeless take advantage but I think the women are in great need that needs to be addressed,” said city councilman Bill Gulliford. “Women and children are the real concern in that whole process to me."
Action News obtained a breakdown of the center's budget from last year. The center was facing a 43% reduction in city funding. In a letter to Mayor Alvin Brown, CEO Cindy Funkhouser stated, "we find this cut disturbing."
The city withheld more than $417,780 in federal grant money from the center. This year, the Sulzbacher Center received $120,000 from the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, or HOPWA.
The center also saw funding from the Emergency Shelter Grant to the tune of $297,780. Moving into the 2012-13 budget, the mayor’s staff decided not to award that money to the center in Jacksonville.
Funkhouser told the mayor the center was caught offguard. "We were never notified by you or any city rep that we would be losing nearly half of our funding effective October 1st."
However, a spokesman with the mayor's office told Action News that the Sulzbacher staff should not have been surprised by these cuts.
"This was a process that began well before this month. As the document included shows -- and I stated to you -- the Center scored below other applicants. Still, we had discussions with leadership there for several weeks. On Monday, we agreed to put a commitment for funding in place -- and in writing at the Sulzbacher's request," said David Decamp.
Sulzbacher guests and staff were planning on protesting Tuesday night’s city council meeting. But at the last minute, a deal was reached. The city says it has discovered about $297,000, which is enough to keep the women's center open.
That money is coming from the Housing and Neighborhoods Department. The funding is not set in stone. The mayor’s office needs to make an official vote on the move before it goes before the city council on November 6.