Show 'em the money, boss

News Hits wants to thank Mayor Dennis Archer and his crack staff for doing something they should have done two years ago. But, hey, better late than never, right? Well, not exactly.

News Hits is referring to the bureaucratic red tape that’s been choking off funds to the Detroit-based nonprofit Wellness House, which has been providing food and transitional housing to homeless people infected with HIV/AIDS since 1985.

These much-needed services were about to be drastically reduced because the city failed to fork over about $284,000 in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) it awarded the group – a portion of which is two years past due.

In fact, had the gay-and-lesbian advocacy group, The Triangle Foundation, not goosed the Archer administration into action, one can only guess when Wellness House would have received its money.

According to Triangle executive director Jeff Montgomery, his group blasted e-mail messages to nearly 2,000 supporters describing Wellness House’s plight. They were asked to call the mayor’s office and "tell him to give up the money so that people can be fed and have their basic needs met."

On June 13, just three days after the message went out, Wellness House got a call from the city promising to have the matter cleared up by June 21.

Exactly how many people called the mayor’s office is not clear; Archer’s press secretaries, Greg Bowens and Michelle Zdrodowski, didn’t return News Hits calls. (Now, don’t make us sic the Triangle Foundation on you.)

Montgomery says that dozens, possibly hundreds of people, phoned in.

Wellness House executive director Rob Fetzer had tried solving this problem on his own by calling, writing and e-mailing city officials for months, but says he got nowhere.

And the delays caused real pain.

Wellness House, which has an annual budget of $333,000, had been providing 400 HIV/AIDS-infected clients with about a week’s worth of food each month. But as a result of the city’s failure to turn lose the CDBG money, the group had to cut the number of people it serves to 333 in 1998, and to 282 a year later, according to Gloria Sims, emergency food coordinator.

So, Mr. Archer, isn’t it time to overhaul the cumbersome CDBG process to ensure that groups get their funding pronto? Do the right thing, boss, and show ’em the money – immediately. If you don’t make it easier to help Detroit’s forgotten folks, who will?

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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