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Teen shelter seeks help after federal grants cut

A local emergency teen shelter is struggling to keep its doors open on weekends after two federal grants were not renewed.

Spokane’s Crosswalk Teen Shelter was going to close on weekends during the day after losing grants totaling about $115,000. Such a financial hit represents about one-third of the shelter’s budget, according to Marilee Roloff, president and CEO of Volunteers of America of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, which operates the shelter.

“It took us by surprise,” she said. “Absolutely, we were shocked.”

Without a place to stay on weekends, many teens who use the shelter will get into trouble or stay in unsafe places with dangerous people, she said.

But a local business with a stake in keeping kids off the street stepped in.

Sterling Bank donated $6,000 to help keep Crosswalk open on weekends through the end of this year.

After several businesses complained to city officials about an apparent uptick in problems with teens and young adults loitering downtown, Sterling Bank officials began reaching out to organizations in the community to identify the root of the issue.

What they found were cuts to programs and services such as Crosswalk, said Marty Dickinson, executive vice president of marketing and communications for Sterling Bank.

“You can see that impact in our urban center,” Dickinson said. “You see a lot more street activity occurring. We see our donation as a way to be a part of the solution and to help organizations that can help those that are in need.”

Now, Sterling Bank is calling on other businesses to do the same.

“Sterling is happy to partner with Crosswalk to help ensure our vulnerable youth always have a safe place to access, and I hope other businesses, especially those in the downtown corridor who see these youth every day, will step up and make a contribution as well,” said Ezra Eckhardt, Sterling Bank’s president and chief operating officer.

While Sterling’s donation is helpful, Crosswalk is far from being in the clear, Roloff said.

Three positions were immediately eliminated, and staff hours were slashed. Crosswalk also had to cut nonemergency client services, which include assisting kids with getting birth certificates, identification, bus passes and prescriptions.

Roloff called the cuts “devastating.”

The bigger of the two grants expired at the end of September, and Crosswalk officials found out Oct. 1 it wouldn’t be renewed, leaving them scrambling to figure out what to do, she said.

Crosswalk, which serves about 1,000 kids each year, is hoping for another $6,000 in donations from the community to stay open on weekends through the end of June, and $25,000 to restore other client services.

“Now we’ve got to raise the money locally,” she said. “We can’t have those kids out on the weekends. It’s too dangerous, period. If they’re in here, they’re doing something productive, they’re staying out of trouble and they’re with good people.”

Roloff is hopeful the community will step up, as it often has in the past during difficult times.

“We have never cried wolf,” she said. “This is an emergency situation.”

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