NEW ALBANY — Despite approving the appropriation unanimously on initial readings in February, the New Albany City Council rejected a $50,000 funding request for Catalyst Rescue Mission on Thursday night.
The vote was 6-3, with Councilmembers Al Knable, Scott Blair and Josh Turner supporting the request.
Those opposed to the measure cited their beliefs that not enough funding is going directly to programming for homeless residents after they enter the shelter, and that the New Albany Trustee’s office is already providing many of the services that Catalyst offers.
Councilman Jason Applegate said that in reviewing the financial information provided by Catalyst Executive Director Jim Moon, only about $2,700 of the $50,000 would have gone to programming and food.
“I couldn’t get over where it was such a small percent of this money that goes to the programs that help people,” he said.
Moon countered that case managers who help Catalyst residents obtain identification cards and aid them in seeking permanent housing are program-oriented expenses.
The council should compare Catalyst — which took over the Jeffersonville shelter from Haven House in November — with other shelters in Indiana before criticizing how it funds its operation, Moon said.
He vowed that he would show how all of New Albany’s money is spent, and that it’s used to get people off the streets including many Floyd County residents.
“We’re spending a considerable amount of resources and time working with New Albany citizens and we want to continue to be able to do that,” Moon said.
“If you don’t fund us, what’s New Albany’s plan to actually work with the people who are falling through the cracks?”
Councilmember Jennie Collier said she was disappointed that Moon didn’t provide the information that had been requested about Catalyst for several months until earlier this week.
She said there were inconsistencies in some of the numbers. Collier expressed concern about how the pandemic could affect the city budget and expenses moving forward.
“We need to be thinking about all the residents in this city,” she said.
There were two sets of financial numbers provided to the council, one showing normal spending and the other showing expenses after COVID-19, Moon said. He added that the numbers were not inconsistent, just different based on the current situation.
“As COVID-19 moves forward, who knows what we’re going to do? I’m trying to keep homeless people safe,” Moon said.
One of the added expenses is having to staff an employee at a motel where new intakes are quarantined during the pandemic, he continued.
Blair credited Catalyst with doing a “remarkable” job in helping homeless people since taking over the shelter. He said that unlike a trustee’s office, the shelter employees provide case management and hit the streets looking for ways to aid those in need.
Knable said the city spends money on a swimming pool and downtown concerts without getting a dollar-for-dollar return on its investment. Helping homeless people is more important than those offerings, he said.
“This is not a want. This council has approved wants in the past in the budget. This is a need. Not only that, it’s an increasing need,” he said.
The appropriation was set to come out of the Riverboat Fund. Turner said he supported the appropriation in part because it wouldn’t come from taxpayer dollars.
Councilmember Pat McLaughlin said that while New Albany doesn’t have a shelter, it does provide help to those in need.
“New Albany is quite possibly one of the largest federal housing cities per capita, not just in Indiana, but probably in the Midwest,” he said. “We do a lot of our share of working with people who would otherwise be homeless.”
The council did approve a statement of benefits for ETS Jet Engine Stands. The business is seeking to open in New Albany and has vowed to bring 30 new jobs paying an average salary of about $43,000.
The council also approved a new one-year contract with Amy Stein for her to remain council attorney. The council’s next meeting is slated for June 1.