Children's shelter group to close

Mat-Su organization turns over programs to nonprofit agency

Posted: Monday, October 30, 2006

ANCHORAGE - A private group that runs a shelter for homeless and runaway youth in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough will hand off its programs to a social service agency.

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The board of directors of Kids Are People announced Wednesday that the debt-ridden organization would be dissolved.

A recent audit by Mikunda Cottrell and Co. of Anchorage revealed debt unknown to the Kids Are People board of directors or its administrators.

"Over $280,000," said the board president, Mari Jo Parks. "Shocking."

The board until Oct. 4 thought the agency director, Shelley Long, had trimmed costs. News that the agency was much deeper in debt signaled the end, Parks said.

"At that point, we called in Foraker (an Anchorage consultant to nonprofit agencies), got a lawyer and began to look at what do we really have to do," she said.

Agency directors agreed to turn over assets and programs to a larger nonprofit agency, Alaska Family Services, based in Palmer.

Most of the Kids Are People programs, including the Dorothy Saxton Youth Shelter and the Transitional Living Center, both in Wasilla, will remain up and running, along with the Juvenile Assessment Center, Special Santa and other programs, according to a joint announcement by Parks and Patricia Chesbro, president of the Alaska Family Services board of directors.

A grant-funded program to encourage abstinence among high-school-age youth will not survive, Parks said.

Alaska Family Services will try to keep Kids Are People staff in place, said chief executive Donn Bennice. It also will take on some, but not all, debt, she said, including the mortgage on the Saxton youth shelter.

Over the first six months of this year, the shelter housed about 2,400 children ages 12 to 18, according to a staff report.

Alaska Family Services operates a shelter for female and child victims of domestic violence. It also operates substance abuse treatment programs, family and marriage counseling and other programs.

"It's a good mix," Bennice said. "AFS has been concerned with Mat-Su Borough losing the services Kids Are People provides. We want to make sure those services are preserved."

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