Wind Center for homeless youth gets last-minute reprieve

Three hastily scribbled checks totaling $20,000 will prop open a critical drop-in center for Sacramento’s homeless youth that was set to close after Friday, SN&R has confirmed.

As recently as Tuesday, Wind Youth Services expected to shutter its center on Dixieanne Avenue, which receives visits from up to 65 homeless youth a day in need of hot meals, showers, laundry facilities or donated clothes, at the end of the week.

The center, which also develops individual case plans for youth to get them into services and off the streets, is the only place of its kind in the Sacramento region.

In response to SN&R’s reporting into Wind Youth Services’ financial troubles, homeless advocates and supporters learned of the news and flooded the organization’s board of directors with offers of assistance. On Wednesday afternoon, that help materialized in the form of a $10,000 donation from the McClatchy Company Foundation, and two $5,000 donations from Folsom State Prison and Bank of America.

Wind executive director Sher Barber also told SN&R she would be drafting a specific appeal to keep the center open.

“If everyone can band together, we can keep this Sacramento asset,” she said.

It costs between $150,000 and $180,000 to operate the center for a year. That money was historically provided through a federal housing grant that was renewed every three years. Due to lingering effects from the federal shutdown, Barber said she hasn’t been able to find out if the grant that ended last September was renewed.

When she spoke to SN&R earlier this week, she said that meant closing a place that has become a safe haven for homeless youth “for a couple of months.”

That was Tuesday morning. By Tuesday evening, the California Youth Homeless Project and other organizations had learned of Wind’s troubles.

“Since the news has been seeping out about the Center closure our board members have received a huge number of calls from Sacramento supporters asking what they can do to help,” Barber said by email.

How far the money will go remains uncertain. Barber said she would be applying for a grant through Sacramento Steps Forward, a conduit for federal housing monies, but the organization is experiencing its own cash flow problems and has laid off staff.

Unaccompanied homeless youth who are not in the foster system traditionally have the fewest options available to them, California Coalition for Youth executive director Paul Curtis told supervisors last week.

Besides clothes and hot food, the center offers a vaccination clinic and access to a public health nurse, as well as a case manager who can help young people get things like academic assistance or state identification cards.

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