The Union Gospel Mission (UGM), a homeless shelter and service provider in Seattle, is working to find homes for six youth programs that the organization cut after a fundraising shortfall left the organization overextended.
Remix White Center, the Youth Reach Out Center and four after-school programs are slated to be cut or transferred to a new operator. In some cases, that process was already in motion, but the budget concerns expedited the move, said Jeff Lilley, executive director of UGM.
“We will stay engaged with them as much as possible try to help them move forward,” Lilley said. “We’re walking with them, trying to figure out how to do it.”
Cutting youth programs would make up the fiscal shortfall and allow UGM to reorient funds toward homeless services, including a new 100-person shelter for women and children. The reasoning drew ire from community members who argued that programs like these prevent youth from becoming homeless in the first place.
In a video posted to The People’s Party Facebook page — the political party that chose Nikkita Oliver as its mayoral candidate — speakers lambasted UGM leadership not just for the cuts but for making the decision without bringing impacted communities to the table.
“This is how you should have started this transition,” said one man, referring to the meeting in which past participants came to speak about their experience with the Youth Reach Out Center.
UGM read the financial tea leaves in the spring and developed a plan to cover the growing deficit. In the months of May and June, Lilley said, leadership offered the board of directors a choice: cover the shortfall now and risk the ability to continue the organization’s expanded role around homelessness or maintain the status quo.
UGM operates shelters, a free legal clinic and partners with the city of Seattle to do outreach to unauthorized homeless encampments. The organization deploys several “Search and Rescue” vans daily to offer shelter space to people first and then resources if shelter is denied.
The growing homeless population and expansion of services created the budget gap rather than a lack of donations, which are up over last year, Lilley said.
UGM doesn’t budget like a business, Lilley said. The organization identifies the amount of money it expects to need over the course of a year and then sets about raising it. The goal, Lilley said, is to have no resources left by the end of the fiscal year.
“The challenge with the mission is we take every bit of the resources and invest it right back into the people in the year,” Lilley said.
Youth programs at UGM began 30 years ago. The development of direct-mail marketing increased the amount of money coming into the organization, and it expanded the services it had offered for the previous 55 years to include youth.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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