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Feds Cut More Than Half-Million from Local Service Providers

Local Matters


Published November 25, 2008 at 11:14 p.m.

Since 1994, Spectrum Youth & Family Services has received a $200,000 federal grant each year for its youth homeless shelter and transitional apartments. Last month, however, the agency was informed that next year’s grant isn’t coming.

Spectrum, a Burlington nonprofit founded in 1970 for at-risk and homeless youth, is one of several local groups affected by recent federal belt-tightening.

“Everybody is feeling cuts,” said Jan Christensen, executive director of Women Helping Battered Women. Her nonprofit just lost a two-year, $471,000 federal grant that helps fund domestic-violence programs at eight local organizations.

“Are we still going to have all our programs? Yes.” Christensen said. “Are you going to be able to staff those programs? Probably not.”

While the $200,000 cut accounts for less than 5 percent of Spectrum’s $4.5 million budget, it comprises roughly a quarter of operating costs at the organization’s Pearl Street shelter and transitional apartments on Maple Street. Elise Brokaw, director of residential services at the nonprofit, predicts that Spectrum may have to “triage” staffing and day-to-day operations in 2009.

The prospect of budget cuts couldn’t come at a worse time, according to Spectrum Executive Director Mark Redmond. In his six years with the nonprofit, he said, demand for services has never been higher. Normally, Redmond would refer overflow clients to the Committee on Temporary Shelter, which operates three homeless shelters in downtown Burlington. But, like most shelters in Vermont, COTS has been turning people away.

In the meantime, Redmond said, Spectrum staffers are handing out heating fuel and gloves. The agency is also hoping holiday-season generosity will help overcome the fiscal shortfall.