Sanctuary struggles to provide services with loss of funding - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Sanctuary struggles to provide services with loss of funding

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Sanctuary isn't just left worrying about a possible payless payday this holiday season. With the loss of federal funding, for the first time they've actually had to turn adolescents away.

"We can no longer band aid the situation," said O.J. Taitano. Sanctuary's Transitional Living Program was created with the intention of creating individuals who can sustain themselves without government assistance. While this facility can house ten teens, it only houses one as the organization is unable to feed or transport the clients.  Taitano, Sanctuary's program director for shelter and outreach, told KUAM News, "We've had to turn away four homeless teenagers thus far. It's a travesty to know that on our family-oriented island there is still this need and the government doesn't see how great the need is."

The program had been receiving federal funding but with sequestration, Taitano says money wasn't provided to the Family and Youth Services Bureau through U.S. Health and Human Services. That equated to a $600,000 cut to a program that cost $800,000 to operate every year. "We are the oldest surviving non-profit organization on the island, being 42 years old, and to think of having to shut our doors is detrimental. We know the government cannot provide the services that are the gap which we are reaching," said Taitano.

Couple that with an additional $100,000 that previously allowed for a teen street outreach program, and he said, "That allowed us to rent a vehicle to go out into the streets and traverse the terrain of the island and find families where they congregate and serve families who lived in bushes in Mangilao or who sleep at Skinner Plaza or Paseo or camp out at Cathedral."

Sanctuary is the only service provider for adolescents, not just for Guam but our neighboring islands.  As we reported, the organization is facing a possible payless payday and closure if the government doesn't begin paying for the services sanctuary provides to troubled teens. "We are taking every austerity measure we can," Taitano said, adding, "Our clients are hanging their clothes, not using the dryer. Our management team is on reduced work hours and we have been on pay cuts since 2011."

The organization is hoping elected leaders identify some permanent solution to ensure the services continue and the doors remain open for the teens who need them.  

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