The Norman Transcript

April 27, 2013

Crossroads supporters protest county budget decision that could pull plug on emergency youth shelter

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Protestors carried signs in front of the Cleveland County Courthouse Friday in protest of the elimination of $225,000 worth of county funding for the emergency youth shelter.

“We’re here saying as a community that we support the shelter,” said Chritina Owen, Crossroads supporter.

Owen said she and others who have rallied to support Crossroads want elected county officials to recognize the shelter’s importance in serving youth in the county as well as the historic connection between Cleveland County and the shelter.

Owen said the group would like the county to continue funding the shelter for another year to give Crossroads time to find other funding.

While the rally of support for Crossroads was not encouraged, supported or endorsed by the facility or administration, Crossroads Executive Director Lisa Winters has said that the Office of Juvenile Affairs, which is a state agency, and Cleveland County are the emergency youth shelter’s primary sources of funding.

Winters said without county funds, the shelter could close or, at the very least, other services might have to be eliminated.

Crossroads’ revenue for 2012, including the $225,000 from Cleveland County, was $12,783,548. Cleveland County’s contribution is less than 2 percent of Crossroads’ overall funding portfolio. Salaries and benefits constitute most of Crossroads’ costs accounting for $8,892,427 of the $12,477,116 in total functional expenses in 2012.

But the shelter is only one small piece of the overall budget, and government funding sources are specific to various projects. The shelter’s budget runs around $500,000.

“The county’s contribution makes up 44 percent of the shelter budget,” Winters said. “It can vary from year to year based on things we need to purchase, but it’s around $520,000 a year.”

The shelter has a minimum of two adult staff per shift for three shifts a day, 365 days a year.

“About 80 percent of that budget is personnel,” Winters said. “The rest is food and utilities and operating costs.”

The shelter also has experienced budget cuts in the state contract with OJA over the last five years.

Both Winters and county commissioners have said the agency pays minimal rent for the county-owned facility where the shelter operates.

“I don’t care if Crossroads runs it, as long as it’s a DHS qualified, certified agency that runs it. My concern is the emergency beds for kids,” said County Commissioner Rusty Sullivan. “I just personally don’t want to lose these beds for these kids.”

The Cleveland County Budget Board is not closing the shelter.

“It’s a county-owned building,” said Sullivan. “If their (Crossroads) board elects to close the shelter, I would be very much for going out to bid to keep that shelter open.”

A look at Crossroads’ financials reveals that the agency receives a variety of state and federal funds based on contracts for shelter beds and other services. According to the nonprofit’s 2012 financial statement posted on the agency website, federal contracts make up more than $8.5 million of the agency’s revenue, in-kind contributions come in just over $1.3 million and state contracts contribute over $2.2 million.

Additionally, municipal revenue is $92,000, client fees is $223,143, contributions account for $11,076 and other revenue is $104,988.

“When you work with government dollars at any level, whether it’s local, state or federal, those dollars come with strict regulation on how they can be used,” Winters said. “We have to submit budgets with all those funding agencies and then we get audited to make sure we spend those dollars the way we said we were going to spend those dollars.”

A Juvenile Intervention Center located on Robinson Street is an additional 12-bed, 24-hour facility. The JIC operates out of a city owned building.

“All of our municipal dollars go into the Juvenile Intervention Center,” Winters said. “These programs can’t exist without all these collaborations.”

Crossroads Youth and Family Services began as Cleveland County Juvenile Shelter in 1969 and is believed to be the first county youth shelter in the state.

In 1972, services were expanded to include probation, parole and school-based counseling. This accompanied a name change to Cleveland County Youth Bureau.

As the decades passed and laws changed, the youth shelter, its governing organization and the services offered by the agency evolved.

In 2002, the Cleveland County Youth & Family Center ceased to operate as a branch of county government, and its advisory board transformed the agency into a non-profit, 501(c) (3) agency named Crossroads Youth and Family Services Inc.

Currently, Crossroads sponsors 27 locations of Head Start and Early Head Start in Cleveland, Comanche, Pottawatomie and Seminole counties.

Winters said Head Start and Early Head Start funds must be kept strictly separated from any funding of other services. Those programs make up the bulk of federal dollars received by Crossroads.

“These federal dollars are strictly regulated,” said Winters. “We have to keep our administration costs below 15 percent for Head Start and Early Head Start. We keep ours well below that.”

The Emergency Youth Shelter, which has been the beneficiary of county money, is located in the southwest corner of the county-owned Alan J. Couch Center at 1650 W. Tecumseh Road. The shelter provides short-term and emergency beds for up to 12 children. The shelter does not receive any federal dollars.

The Cleveland County Budget Board, which includes all of the elected county officials, agreed this week to eliminate Crossroads as a line item budget expense.

Supporters of Crossroads are upset and organized the protest rally at the courthouse. But County officials say they have no beef with the organization. The budget elimination is a reflection of across the board belt-tightening.

“Not one other youth shelter in the state receives county funding,” County Commissioner Rod Cleveland said.

Joy Hampton




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