City officials will hold a public hearing tonight on how to spend $28.8 million in federal anti-poverty and homelessness grants.

The federal money, computed using formulas that take into account local poverty rates, is a key source for emergency shelter, affordable housing and social-service programs for low-income, homeless or HIV-positive Louisiana residents. In 2009, an estimated 11,500 people were homeless in New Orleans, nearly double the pre-storm amount of 6,300. As many as 6,000 people now live in some of the 51,000 blighted and abandoned properties in New Orleans, according to UNITY of Greater New Orleans, a nonprofit organization leading a collaborative of over 60 agencies providing housing and services to the homeless. UNITY is one of a number of nonprofit service providers that depend on the grants that will be discussed tonight.

The hearing is the first step of the public-comment period that comes before Mayor Mitch Landrieu can submit spending plans for 2011-2013 to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The plans are due to HUD on Nov. 15. A draft report will be available for public comments after Oct. 15.

Tonight’s hearing will be held at St. Maria Goretti’s L. Earl Gautreaux JCL Center at 7300 Crowder Blvd. in eastern New Orleans. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and is expected to end at 8 p.m.