Youth center closes doors to residents

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, November 26, 2008

SUFFOLK—The Hampton Roads Youth Center has closed the doors of its residential program, and the board of the organization is trying to find ways it can continue to help troubled children.

“Early on in the year, they had started to see a growing gap between expenses and revenue,” said Laurie Harrison, the development director for the center. “There was not enough money coming in.”

The center is only one of many nonprofit organizations struggling to make ends meet in the current economic situation.

“The economy was pretty much the final straw,” Harrison said, adding that residential treatment is expensive.

The Hampton Roads Youth Center is a private, nonprofit residential treatment program for troubled Hampton Roads teenagers. The property is located on Kenyon Road in Suffolk. The center’s doors opened five years ago, and it has since served more than 75 families, according to a letter that appeared on the organization’s Web site Wednesday afternoon.

The center included residential facilities, an accredited school teaching core subjects, a counseling facility and administrative offices.

“Rather than continue to place additional kids, which would further widen the gap in revenue and expenses, the Board of Directors decided to discontinue admissions and begin researching the formation of a foundation that would continue helping children and families throughout Hampton Roads,” the Web site letter read. It was dated Nov. 13, 2008, and signed by HRYC Board President Ronald F. Spindel, and Joseph B. Goldman, chairman of the board.

Spindel said the board felt it was making the prudent choice by closing the residential program before expenses grew more.

“You cannot raise enough revenue as a nonprofit organization to do it,” he said.

He also noted that, while the model of the youth center was expensive, it was extremely successful. Many children have graduated from the program and become successful who would otherwise be in jail or dead, he said.

Now that the residential program is closed, the board is exploring how best to continue to help troubled youth and families in the area.

They haven’t reached any conclusions yet, however, he said.

“It’s been a great effort,” said Bob Carter, a member of the center’s board of directors. “We ’ve saved many people’s lives and touched the hearts of thousands of people.”

In addition to financial problems, the center faced a growing trend against using residential facilities as a form of treatment for troubled teens, Harrison said.

Also, licensing standards for residential facilities have become more stringent, and state reimbursements to the facilities have decreased, the letter


The six children in the program were transferred to other programs, to foster homes or back to their families.

The center had ceased admitting students when it became clear it would not be able to continue to operate, Harrison said.

Spindel said he had been unaware that an early version of the letter informing the public about the center’s plans had been posted to the Internet. That letter had been withdrawn from the site by Wednesday night.

He said the board had been meeting to draft a final version of the notification.