The Community Services League is one of four organizations in Missouri to receive federal housing counseling grants announced Thursday.

“We try to help families stay in stability in their unit, and help landlords maintain their tenants,” said Doug Cowan, president/CEO of the Community Services League. “We try to mediate those situations.”

With people making the transition to home ownership for the first time, he said, “that's a visible way those grant dollars manifest themselves.”

CSL offers housing counseling services, including direct homeless/street outreach, tenant/landlord mediation and first-time homebuyer education.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced $42.8 million worth of grants across the country, including $32,194 to CSL. All told, Missouri organizations received $247,685 worth of grants, including $15,174 to Neighborhood Housing Services of Kansas City.

How many people or families the grant to CSL can help directly – that's hard to measure. But Cowan said that perhaps most importantly, getting a HUD grant keeps the CSL name more visible for other groups to help with the same cause.

“It helps create more access,” he said, “and with that we will end up helping hundreds if not thousands of families.

“Sometimes, they just need a trained person to talk with them,” Cowan said. “The engagement with folks can range from a quick phone call and piece of advice all the way to a full-blown housing counseling relationship with us, where they get help budgeting for housing and searching for the right place.”

Cowan said the housing counseling grants are different than some other grants CSL might receive from HUD for direct housing financial assistance. Those dollars can be reallocated from year to year in places around the country depending on results, Cowan said, adding that there's an opening this year to apply for additional money to the Kansas City area.

HUD said nearly half of the grant recipients had preference because they will provide counseling to individuals and families within designated “Opportunity Zones.” Those were created with the 2017 tax cut, aiming to stimulate long-term investments in low-income communities by offering significant capital gains tax relief to those who invest in such areas.