Shutdown Forces DC Homeless Youth Organization to Cut Back

Cut off from federal and local funds, organizations that serve the District's neediest residents are having to scale back their efforts.

By: Benjamin Freed

For a glimpse of where the shutdown is hitting hardest, the best place to look might be the charities and organizations that offer help to DC’s neediest residents.

With the District unable to distribute its own money or what it gets from federal grants, Sasha Bruce Youthwork, a network of services for the city’s homeless youth, furloughed 46 full-time employees who work on after-school programs, street outreach, pregnancy prevention, and AIDS testing. The organization, which is largely dependent on grants from the federal Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, announced the cutbacks last night.

“We don’t have enough guarantee of what money is going to flow, and we need to make these horrible hard choices,” says Sasha Bruce Youthwork’s executive director, Deborah Shore. “It is really awful.”
The organization’s “essential” services are confined to its housing programs, Shore says. For now, they can still offer short-term shelters, transitional housing, and independent living programs to the youth it serves, but little else. About 80 housing and administrative staff are still in their jobs.

Mary’s Center, a health center with two locations in the District, could not receive $585,000 in Medicaid payments due from the District last week, and will be unable to pay its employees next week if the shutdown doesn’t end or Congress doesn’t pass a bill that permits the city to access its full budget.

Shore says Sasha Bruce Youthwork pared down as much as it could while still being able to protect the homeless youths it serves. She calls the squeeze of having both federal and local funds cut off a “double whammy.”

In addition to the staff let go this week, Shore also had drop 12 high-school students who work part-time jobs that help support their families’ living expenses.

“A lot of the kids we work with have already been quite disappointed by their lives,” Shore says. “For us to commit to them and then pull back is just the hardest thing. I’m sick about it.”