Saturday, January 23, 2010

Link Crisis Intervention Center's 14-bed shelter program for troubled youths will close as of March 1

Organization will focus efforts on outreach services instead
By Wm. Ast III - H-Palladium, Friday, January 22, 2010

BENTON TOWNSHIP - Faced with a 40 percent cut in state and federal funding and a decreasing demand, the Link Crisis Intervention Center's 14-bed shelter program for troubled youths will close as of March 1.
Instead, the Link will concentrate on outreach services, which should better serve the youths, officials said.
Art Cotter, chairman of the board of Child and Family Services of Southwestern Michigan, said in a press release Thursday that the economic downturn has ended "certain key state and federal funding sources for the Link." To ensure financial viability, the CFS board decided to close the Link shelter program, he said.
The Link is a part of CFS.
CFS Executive Director Warren Washington said the shelter program has had an annual budget of around $500,000 but has seen the big decrease in state and federal funding.
However, he said the Link has also seen "a decrease in the demand for our shelter services and an increase for our outreach services. That's part of the reason for this restructuring. We believe our restructuring will help us meet the changing needs of the community."
The shelter had about 100 youths in 2009, Washington said. "The shelter has been underutilized for the past year," he added.
Washington said he's not certain why the demand has gone down.
"I know we have increased our prevention and outreach services, and providing counseling to youths in schools and community centers to help prevent youths from running away in the first place," he said.
Offering more outreach services should allow the Link to help 500 young people this year, compared with 200 total last year, Washington said.
Shelter director Kelly Nightingale said young people who used the shelter in 2009 stayed for an average of about eight days. They are allowed to stay a maximum of 14 days, she said.
After March 1, the space will be used "for some of the other programs that we have in the agency," Nightingale said. "We will have no problem utilizing the space."
In addition to more outreach programs, the agency will expand its National Safe Place program. That program will allow CFS to continue to help what it calls "youth in crisis" to get help at participating business locations.
Washington said participating businesses display a Safe Place Sign, showing youths a place where they can go and get help. "Then the business owner and staff will contact us here at the Link, and a counselor or case manager will work with the youth," he said.
The goal "is to recruit at least 50 businesses in the first year in the tri-county area served by Child and Family Services," Washington said.
CFS in a news release about the changes said it expects to eliminate a few positions as a result of the restructuring.
Washington said the Link has 14 staff positions. He said he doesn't yet know how many may be lost.
Child and Family Services of Southwest Michigan originated in 1891 as the Children's Aid Society, which helped orphaned children find permanent homes. CFS services now include Homecare, Day Services for Seniors, the Link Crisis Intervention Center, West Michigan Guardianship, and Safe Shelter Inc., the area's domestic violence shelter.
CFS is now at 2450 S. Michigan 139.