Five nonprofit social service agencies are losing out on a total of $84,500 as the Mesa City Council narrows the range of its $1.4 million human services funding program.
The money will instead provide additional funding to three East Valley homeless and domestic violence shelters, which were awarded other grants in this year’s budgeting process.
Vice Mayor Claudia Walters, this year’s chairwoman of the board of the Mesa United Way, said the decision was not based on program merits, but a discussion of where the city should spend its social services money, which mostly comes from the General Fund.
These decisions are based in part on how many other government agencies are already invested. For example, she said, "I don’t think we should get involved with health care. The county government, the state government and the federal government are already involved, and it’s a bottomless pit."
The council is focused on public safety, she said, which led it to give more money to shelters serving domestic violence victims or homeless people who have nowhere else to go.
The council decided five programs recommended for funding by the human services board didn’t fit this definition. One was Jewish Family and Children’s Services inhome geriatric program, which had not received city funding in the past. The board recommended fully funding its $20,000 request, which geriatric services director Ellie Schwartzberg said would have covered debt payments and freed up more money for client services.
"Our other funding isn’t increasing at the same rate as the need, and since our biggest area is the city of Mesa, it was a logical place to go," she said. The program had 90 Mesa clients last year, and provides counseling, transportation and other services so elderly residents can stay in their own homes.
She said she didn’t agree with the reasoning for the council’s decision. "Society is judged on how well we treat its most vulnerable members, and certainly our elderly are our most vulnerable," she said.
Two of the other affected programs, Catholic Community Services’ hearing loss, health and technology program for hearing-impaired seniors and Advocates for the Disabled disability claims service, don’t have another identified funding source.
The disability claims program received city funding last year, as will two more programs that Mesa United Way, instead of the city, will fund.
The agency will give $30,000 to Mesa Senior Services’ outreach prescription program and $12,500 to the Marc Center’s program for mentally disabled preschoolers.