Diakonia Takes Funding Pitch To Resort Officials

OCEAN CITY – Diakonia homeless shelter continued its search for additional funding this week as Executive Director Claudia Nagle came before the Ocean City Council in hopes of garnering increased assistance for 2007-2008 expenses.

Diakonia reported its dire financial situation to the County Commissioners last month, requesting $65,000 in aid to help support the 45-bed emergency shelter. A tight budget resulted in a $30,000 grant from the county, a significant help, but not enough to cover increased expenses.

“In order to maintain quality services and safety, additional funds are needed. Diakonia strives to keep the cost of providing services low and the quality of service high. Our administrative costs are low, allowing over 80 percent of dollars to go directly toward client/guest care and services,” said Nagle this week.

Nagle requested $25,000 in assistance from the City Council to help with 2007-2008 expenses, a fairly large increase over the $13,000 grant that the city usually provides.

“These funds will allow us to continue to provide our ‘round the clock’, year-round services including information and referral, crisis intervention, emergency food assistance, emergency shelter, transitional housing, support case management and aftercare services to homeless men, women, families and children. The funds requested would allow us to continue serving the community at our current level,” said Nagle.

Last year marked Diakonia’s 35th year of providing Ocean City and Worcester County with services that include emergency shelter, transitional housing, an emergency food pantry and aftercare services.

“Diakonia offers more than three-hots and a cot,” Nagle said, explaining that Diakonia provides more than a hot meal and a bed for the night.

According to Nagle, the services expand far behind that, addressing fiscal problems, mental health needs and addiction.

Nagle noted the increasing costs of living, housing and fuel as a contributing factor, making daily living difficult for many local families. Rising fuel costs and the economic downturn has also affected the shelter, increasing expenses and adversely affecting the much-needed donations from the community.

In 2007, Diakonia provided 9,616 bed nights, with 72 percent of guests coming from Worcester County. Nagle said that while she did not have figures on which municipalities guests were coming from, “what I do know is that many of those folks live in Ocean City.” Some of the guests stay for just a night or two, while others stay for several months, with the longest stay in the transitional housing program extending to 24 months.

“Last year we provided 56,000 meals and our budget was $6,000,” said Nagle, noting the community support that makes those meals possible. “We try to be very good stewards of the dollars that are allocated.”

Nagle addressed a common concern among community members – the amount of money dedicated to salaries each year. Nagle explained that while 64 percent of expenses in 2007 went toward salaries, the money is well spent and needed if Diakonia wishes to continue providing quality service. Nagle noted that the paid professionals at Diakonia are tasked with mentoring and assisting the lives, problems and issues of those utilizing Diakonia. The professionals are also responsible for the training and work of numerous volunteers.

“If it weren’t for the community, I don’t know that we’d be able to offer the services or the volume of services that we provide,” Nagle said, thanking everyone and Ocean City for their past and continued support.

Nagle noted that while Diakonia was asking for more assistance this year from the town, any funding would be greatly appreciated.

“Please consider that increase at some point,” she said.

Councilman Jim Hall noted the numerous times that Ocean City Police officers take troubled citizens, who are not necessarily breaking the law, to Diakonia for assistance or a place to stay for the night.

“This really is Ocean City’s shelter, it’s a place that we take our troubled when we have troubles,” said Hall.

As a former cop, Councilman Jay Hancock said he often took citizens to Diakonia.

“It was really nice to have a facility like that,” Hancock said. “I would hate to see that facility not available to the community.”

Councilman Lloyd Martin said it needs to be explored in the next budget.

“I definitely want to look at this hard at budget time,” said Martin.

The council agreed to look closely at the figures during upcoming budget planning to see how much money could be allocated.