Fairbanks’ only homeless youth shelter is already feeling the burden of operating budget vetoes handed down by Gov. Mike Dunleavy last month. As part of his vetoes, Dunleavy eliminated a series of community assistance grants that fund a network of nonprofit resource agencies in the Fairbanks area, of which The Door is one. 

Run by Fairbanks Youth Advocates Director Marylee Bates, The Door is a youth shelter that operates 24 hours a day and provides food, clothing and shelter to homeless or in-transition youths. The shelter is able to house 12 youths at a time and operates with two full-time staff. 

But after the budget vetoes eliminated the Basic Homeless Assistance Program grant that funded more than half of The Door’s operating budget, the shelter is unsure of its future. 

The cut took $189,000, or about 59%, from the shelter, of The Door’s operating budget, Bates said. 

“Right now we’re trying to operate as we normally would,” Bates said. “But we’re basically scrambling to find out some new ways to raise money.”

How the grant works, Bates explained, is that the organization spends the money and then is reimbursed by the grand funding. That reimbursement typically arrives within two weeks of expenditure, automatically refilling the pots that were emptied. This month, those reimbursements did not come and the shelter has been forced to dip into savings. 

“Normally, at the end of July, we would have a request for reimbursement from anywhere from $13,000 or $14,000. We will not be doing that this month at the end.”

As soon as the shelter heard of the cuts, Bates said, it took immediate action to cut costs, one of which was slicing her position from 40 paid hours a week to 20. 

“That’s something we could do that is the least invasive on services for the kids,” Bate said. “Now we’re just taking a look at other areas, ways we can either raise funds or cut costs.”

But regulations regarding how the shelter operates hobbles certain cost-cutting measures that could be taken. For example, the shelter is qualified to house 12 youths and is required to have one staff member present for every six young people. So the shelter could cut a staff position, but as soon as that seventh child arrives, it would be in violation of its operating contract, Bates explained. 

Seven youths were in the shelter Wednesday night.

“The need is not going away,” Bates said. 

To change operational structures, however, the shelter would need to apply for a waiver from the state, and there’s no telling whether that application would even be approved, she added.

For Bates, though, her frustration goes far beyond the financial struggles of her organization.

“It’s all a circle,” she said. “People are excited about their full PFD; I just think they don’t have a clue about the effects and implications for not just the nonprofit agencies and university and the agencies that are no long going to receive those funds, but we’re all affected by this whether they realize this or not. It’s anything from whether an entity is not there or they don’t have a job, and all of the sudden it affects everything from the housing market to the grocery store, it affects the economy in ways we’ve only begun to think about.” 

The clock is ticking.

“We’re definitely dipping into our savings. We’re spending money that we’ve set aside and saved up,” she said. “In current operating costs, if nothing else changed and we weren’t able to drum up support, we would have to think seriously about doing business within the next few months.”  

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter:@FDNMPolitics.

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