NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:
This week Norman citizens became aware of the Cleveland County Budget Board’s decision to cut funding for the Crossroads Youth and Family Shelter. Concerned citizens then contacted the commissioners to ask why the funding will be cut. The most conclusive answer we received is Commissioner Rod Cleveland’s response that the county shouldn’t be in the business of charity.
We are extremely disappointed by Mr. Cleveland’s statement. Crossroads currently receives $225,000 in county funding each year, which amounts to 40 percent of its operating budget.
Mr. Cleveland says the county is not shutting down the shelter, as many claim.
While it technically is true the budget board does not have the authority to close the shelter, it’s naïve to think that won’t be the outcome of cutting nearly half of the shelter’s funding.
Mr. Cleveland and the other budget board members can’t possibly believe the Crossroads shelter will absorb a 40 percent budget cut by July 1 and be fine.
This decision isn’t about budget shortfalls that plague some municipalities and counties. Cleveland County will have an approximate $700,000 surplus after eliminating Crossroads’ funding. What kind of message are we sending to the neediest children when we do something like this?
Mr. Cleveland told Channel 9 that Cleveland County is not responsible for having a youth shelter. But Cleveland County helped fund the shelter for more than 40 years, and before 2011, it was actually a branch of the county operations. Now the budget board wants to throw away this vital program and pretend the county has no obligation to serve our children.
There is no denying it: This shelter saves and transforms lives. There were 2,994 reports of child abuse in 2012 and of those reports, 55 percent were confirmed, according to the Oklahoma DHS website.
Places like Crossroads shelter make it possible for children and their family members to be removed from dangerous situations.