October 27, 2010; Source: Stltoday.com | A number of St. Louis nonprofits say their budgets—and patience—are straining as they wait for money owed to them for helping victims of domestic violence and the homeless. Promised their share of some $870,000 in federal emergency shelter funds, so far the groups haven’t seen a penny.

Unlike other cash flow problems facing many nonprofits everywhere, this problem isn’t recession-related, but bureaucratic. The money is supposed to come from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Officials there say the grant was delayed until last month because of incomplete paperwork. James Heard, director of HUD’s St. Louis office, said he was surprised to learn the affected groups still haven’t been paid. Earlier this week, William Seidhoff, who heads the city’s Department of Human Services, promised that checks will be cut sometime next month.

In the meantime, the nonprofits that need the money say the delays are hurting. Many are dipping into reserves, using lines of credit and cutting out inexpensive items like bus tickets, to accommodate the increased demand for services that is related to the poor economy. “We have a really small margin of error,” said Michelle Schiller-Baker, executive director of St. Martha’s Hall, which helps abused women and their children. “We don’t have bus money to get to that doctor’s appointment, to get to that job interview.”

And although the $35,800 her group is expecting is a small portion of the overall $900,000 operating budget, she says she wants her money, and now. “Regardless of what amount it is of our budget at the shelter,” she said, “you owe me the money, you better give it to me.”—Bruce Trachtenberg