County gives Sacramento Steps Forward credit (the financial kind)

The biggest obstacle to Sacramento Steps Forward embracing its role as administrator of the county’s homelessness strategy was quietly ironed out earlier this month.

On June 10, county supervisors authorized a $750,000 line of credit to Steps Forward, so that it can float payments to providers waiting on already approved federal money. The revolving, no-interest loan will be available for a maximum of three years, the county Department of Human Assistance states in a staff report.

Homeless shelters, food banks, churches and other local “continuum of care” operators rely on U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grants, but those checks can take months to cut, longer during instances like last year’s government shutdown. While Steps Forward took over the county’s lead role in administering homelessness programs in 2011, it lacks the deep pockets to prop up local operators during the wait times, threatening their existence in some cases.

“There are several programs within Lutheran Social Services [of Northern California] who are always impacted the most,” said Steps Forward executive director Ryan Loofbourrow. He explained that Lutheran Social Services’ HUD contracts begin every February, but checks aren’t received until July or August. “They, of course, must sustain longest without the necessary funds,” he added.

Last year, the need for such loans reached $1.05 million total, the highest since 2009, according to the county.

The line of credit will largely address that issue. Steps Forward, meanwhile, is “working with various lenders” to develop its own credit line within the next two to three years, the staff report notes.

“We are extremely appreciative of our partnership with the County of Sacramento as we work together to assure our safety network of homeless housing and services is sustained throughout the year,” Loofbourrow said via email.

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