Homeless youth center searches for other funding sources

Three hastily scribbled checks totaling $20,000 propped open a critical drop-in center for homeless youth that was set to close this week. But Sacramento’s Wind Youth Services isn’t out of the woods yet.

The center on Dixieanne Avenue draws visits from up to 65 homeless youth a day in need of hot meals, showers, laundry facilities or donated clothes. It also develops individual case plans for young people to get them into services and off the streets, and is the only place of its kind in the Sacramento region.

In response to SN&R’s reporting into Wind’s predicament, supporters flooded the organization’s board of directors with appeals to keep the center open. On November 13, 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 said she’s also drafting a targeted, end-of-year appeal to donors. “Instead of being general, we’re being very direct,” she told SN&R.

How far the money will go remains uncertain. Barber anticipated 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.

This comes as news trickles out about Wind’s mounting financial troubles. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Administration for Children & Families decided not to renew a three-year $540,000 “center grant” that paid for the drop-in center. Less calamitous, but still troublesome, Sacramento Employment and Training Agency staff recommended denying a $30,625 family self-sufficiency funding request after steering $38,000 to the nonprofit for that purpose last year.

Wind relied on both pots of money “for several years,” Barber said. “We’re going to come up with some other options.”

In its November 14 funding recommendations, SETA explains it’s because Wind doesn’t plan on using the money for shelter or case management this time around, as it has in previous years. Instead, Wind proposes investing in its crisis hotline, counseling and family-reunification efforts, “and apparently, that wasn’t popular,” Barber said.

SETA did, however, recommend approving Wind’s request for $20,381 in safety-net services.

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 A. Curtis told supervisors last week.

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