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CDBG and HOME Revitalize Rockford

By Mayor Charles E. Box

For the past 25 years, the City of Rockford has utilized Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to provide housing, social services, and economic opportunities for thousands of citizens. Funds received under the HOME investment Partnership Program, Emergency Shelter Grants Program (ESG), and the Continuum of Care Competitive Grants Program have allowed this community to combine funds to address the needs of the community. However, the versatility of CDBG funds allows local communities to address their most pressing needs through the establishment of a variety of innovative and creative activities. This versatility is the most important factor in the long-term success of the CDBG program and is the reason CDBG is the longest-lived governmental grant program. CDBG dollars have allowed Rockford to provide homeownership opportunities and rehabilitation services to more than 2,500 low/moderate income families.

The WestSide Alive! Program allows families, who earn as little as 40% of median income, to become homeowners. WestSide Alive! utilizes a combination of CDBG, HOME, state and private dollars to construct new homes at an affordable price. Over the past four years, WestSide Alive, has provided homeownership opportunities to over 40 families.

The Homestead Program utilizes a combination of CDBG, HOME and private dollars to provide affordable, rehabilitated housing. The Homestead Program is designed to revitalize the housing stock in the City's urban center. The City also partners with not-for-profit agencies and community groups to ensure CDBG dollars are directed towards the neighborhoods and individuals that are most in need.

The Community Assistance Program (CAP) provides funds to not-for-profits to provide services to individual neighborhoods. CDBG funds have been used to provide child care services; services to the developmentally disabled; job training services; and homeownership training.

In addition, CDBG funding has been used to provide economic opportunities to low and moderate income individuals and their families. The City provides an array of loan services to new business owners, as well as, counseling and assistance with the development of business plans and financial restructuring.

The Shopstead Program has given economically distressed areas of the City a new energy. The Shopstead Program demolishes blighted structures and provides a small shopping center for new business development. Each tenant is responsible for obtaining private funds to finish the space.

In 1987, the community established the Mayor's Homeless Task Force to provide a comprehensive approach to the area's homeless problem. This group, which is comprised of shelter operators, private citizens, government employees and others has provided an invaluable service in addressing the needs of the homeless. Funds received under the Continuum of Care Grant Program, ESG, and private sources have been used to provide emergency shelter to more than 5,000 men, women, and children. It has also provided permanent supportive housing to more than 200 individuals and families and transitional housing to just over 1,500 individuals and families.

The City of Rockford uses its federal funding to leverage private dollars. In the past three years (1995-98), the City expended $7 million in federal funds. Those dollars have leveraged just under $30 million in private funds. This represents a 1:3 ratio of public to private fund. Compare this to 1994-96, when the City expended the same amount of dollars and leveraged only $7,000,000 in private dollars.

CDBG, HOME, and ESG, and the Continuum of Care Grant Program have allowed the City of Rockford to take a proactive stance in providing homeownership opportunities, rehabilitation activities, economic development initiatives and supportive services for the community. With the legal and financial restraints of local government funding, none of the programs mentioned would have been initiated. Over the past 25 years, CDBG and HOME dollars have given more than money to this community - it has given hope.

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