TAFY supporters protest Tuesday at Clallam County Courthouse over funding cut
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Taloma Smith of Port Angeles, a client of The Answer For Youth as well as a volunteer for the organization, marches in front of the Clallam County Courthouse in Port Angeles on Tuesday in protest of a funding cut by the county commissioners. — Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — More than a dozen supporters of The Answer For Youth held signs and marched Tuesday at the Clallam County Courthouse to oppose a cut to the volunteer-based charity that supports at-risk and homeless youth.

Susan Hillgren, executive director of The Answer For Youth, or TAFY, has repeatedly urged county commissioners to reconsider a $12,000 cut from the state Homeless Housing and Assistance fund.

The county has previously distributed the grant to TAFY to pay rent at its outreach and drop-in center at 711 E. Second St. in Port Angeles.

County officials said a review committee recommended against funding TAFY — as well as other projects — this year, as social service organizations compete for a shrinking pot of money.

Prior to the picket near the courthouse steps, Hillgren and six others testified in support of TAFY in the public comment period of Tuesday’s commissioners meeting.

“Please remember that you three men have the responsibility and power, the power to change what isn’t right,” Hillgren told commissioners.

TAFY spent $9,000 last year to help youth and young adults pay for fees for General Educational Development certificates, or GEDs, as well as eye glasses and YMCA memberships, Hillgren said.

“We now will take that money and pay our rent with it,” she added.

“One thing I need you to understand is that this population needs more help than the average person.”

A review subcommittee of the Clallam County Homelessness Task Force twice recommended that commissioners deny TAFY’s $30,580 funding request for rent and maintenance costs through the state Homeless Housing and Assistance 2163 fund.

The subcommittee cited a “duplication of existing community resources” and “concern about mix of older adults and youth utilizing (the) facility.”

The TAFY center supports homeless and at-risk teens, young adults and parents between the ages of 13 and 35.

It offers meals, clothing, life skills training and referrals in partnership with churches and other agencies.

The outreach center is open beween 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturdays.

“It’s my second home, man,” said Corbin Royce of Port Angeles, a 25-year-old TAFY client.

“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have a home.”

Clallam County distributed $10,000 to TAFY in 2011, $15,000 to TAFY in 2012 and $12,000 to the organization last year.

The review subcommittee also rejected TAFY’s $12,000 request for new funds to provide safe housing to pregnant and postpartum teens and young adults.

The subcommittee said TAFY’s nonprofit 501(c)(3) status had not been obtained.

The subcommittee also recommended that the county not provide $13,970 in funding requests from the North Olympic Regional Veterans Housing Network and a $38,500 request from the West End Outreach Services.

Commissioners concurred with the panel.

In the separate Affordable Housing 2060 fund, the county rejected a $28,357 request from the Makah tribe and a $50,000 request from the Peninsula Housing Authority.

All told, Clallam County awarded $300,000 in Homeless Housing and Assistance funds and $85,000 in Affordable Housing grants.

“We wish we could fund everybody, but we do not have the funds to do that,” said Iva Burks, Clallam County Health and Human Services director.

“Some very tough decisions have to be made.”

Commissioner Mike Chapman has said the county used a “very robust and thorough vetting process” for the distribution of state housing funds.

Commissioner Mike Doherty told TAFY supporters that the trend is government is to consolidate social service programs.

“I would say, in the future, it’s not going to get any rosier,” Doherty said.

“If you look at the federal debates and the state legislative debates, money going to social services is not generally going up. It’s being cut.”

Doherty said numerous applicants in his West End district are “in similar situations” as TAFY.

“Some have closed over the years,” Doherty said.

“They did a great service.”

Hillgren co-created the Dream Center and worked at Serenity House of Clallam County before she co-founded The Answer For Youth in 2009.

A 2010 recipient of a Clallam County Community Service Award, Hillgren and her organization assists an average of 50 youth and young adults per day.

“We don’t duplicate any services,” Hillgren said after the meeting.

“Nobody does what we do. Nobody’s crazy enough to do what we do.”

Hillgren said she works 50 to 60 hours per week writing grant proposals and helping those who come through the doors.

She resigned from the Homelessness Task Force on Tuesday.

For more information on TAFY, click on www.theanswer4youth.org.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 07. 2014 6:22PM
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