Not only are there more homeless children in Central Oregon this year than last, the one non-specialized shelter for homeless teens has run into a financial buzzsaw that threatens its existence. Fortunately, Oregon’s senators and Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, are doing what they can to correct the problem.
The LOFT, located on Bend’s west side, opened in August 2003. Since then, it has served countless young men and women in a variety of ways.
It has been the roof over the heads of numerous teens who otherwise might not have had one. That’s no small thing in a region where more than 4 percent of school-age children are homeless, by federal definition. While at the LOFT, residents of both sexes work to acquire the things necessary to make their way in the world — from a high school education to a driver’s license.
The LOFT’s problems appear to be the result of a truly horrendous computer glitch that left its application for a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services seemingly incomplete. Though the problem seems to have been sorted out, HHS says it no longer has money available for the agency, and the LOFT cannot reapply until next year for 2014. Its staff expects its current money to run out before spring.
Central Oregonians interested in such things may well increase donations to the program, a move that could extend the time it can survive. At the same time, grant writers will get busy looking for money from other sources.
But federal funding has been key to the LOFT’s financial stability over the years, and replacing it permanently may be beyond reach in such a short period of time.
Fortunately, Walden and Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley already are trying to sort things out and get the LOFT’s finances back on track — although, as of Monday, the effort was still a work in progress. All three men clearly understand that the shelter’s existence is well worth fighting for across party lines and even as both houses of Congress strive to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff that looms at the start of next year.
Their efforts are critical. For the LOFT, the fiscal cliff is already here.