Facing drastic funding cuts by the federal government, the Ruth Ellis Center, one of the nations premier service programs for lgbt youth, is now scrambling to adjust accordingly without losing clients or staff.
“We’re in a cash-flow crunch,” said Grace McClelland, REC’s executive director. “But things will level out.”
So far this year the center has lost 80 percent of its federal money, including funding for its emergency shelter.
“We think we may lose all of it,” said McClelland of the federal funds, which represent nearly half of the center’s operating budget. “We were expecting $100,000 to come into the bank for the shelter on Sept. 1. Now, none of that has come through.”
To compensate, the center has undergone an urgent conversion.
“Because the feds will no longer pay for the emergency shelter program for our young people, we’re transitioning those five beds to a program for state placed youth,” McClelland said. “It’s an intensive treatment program. It will house five young people with a multiplicity of issues, including strong mental health issues.”
Per bed, the state pays substantially more than the federal funding allowed. The problem now is time.
“We already have youth in placement,” explained McClelland. “We’re earning that money already. The problem is, once you take your first state placed youth, you have to go through a whole month of service and then there is a 45-day lag before your first payment. Then you get payment every 45 days.”
This means the center won’t be paid for providing services offered now until mid-February.
“Things are pretty tight,” McClelland said. “I’m working real hard, the board is working real hard, and that’s what we have to do to bridge the gap. It’s a transitional period and we have to bridge the gap.”
Speed bump on the path of progress
While said bridge is being built, the center is also readjusting other programming, including the transitional living program.
“We have already partially adjusted the transitional living program because we’re not anticipating getting that funding back either,” said McClelland.
In addition, two new grants the center applied for this year were also turned down. The feds’ failure to continue to invest in the future of Detroit’s underprivileged lgbt youth has put a speed bump in the center’s path of progress.
Earlier this year, REC opened a new 5,000-square foot drop-in center. Work is also currently ongoing on a second residential unit next to Ruth’s House. In fact, in the four years that McClelland has helmed the organization, the center has gone from a staff of five to 25 and the center’s annual operating budget has grown from $300,000 to $1 million.
So McClelland believes that the community will step up during this transitional period and that the phenomenal growth the center has undergone will be back on track in no time.
“It will be OK,” she said. “We are holding our expenses as well as we can without losing any services for our young people – or any staff members.”