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Capital City Youth Services Feeling 'Sense Of Urgency' As Federal Funding Has Dwindled

Ryan Dailey

Capital City Youth Services has seen its federal funding dwindle for the past three years, and now leadership is seeking other avenues to keep programs afloat. The nonprofit has been denied $150,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for its street outreach program. It’s going on two years without another $200,000 in federal funding for a transitional living program.

The street outreach program provides services for young people who are homeless or have run away from home – some of whom are at risk of, or have been victims of human trafficking.

Kevin Priest is CEO and president of CCYS.

We’re trying to find other ways to fund programs that were heavily funded, or at least adequately funded I should say – it’s allowed us to build up our program and address the need within our community, but unfortunately – particularly from the federal side, that money’s dried up,” Priest said Wednesday.

Priest says some of that federal funding is being reallocated instead to bigger, metropolitan areas. 

“Areas like Tallahassee, or communities our size are kind of being neglected,” Priest said. “And it’s just because the money’s not there.”

Meanwhile, the demand for CCYS’s services isn’t going anywhere, according to their staff. Taylor Biro has been running the Going Places street outreach program for nearly 7 years.

“Every day we see about 15 to 20 kids who come through the drop-in center. A lot of these kids are staying at the shelter or they’re couch surfing – some of them are sleeping outside in the woods,” Biro said. “So we do have a real sense of urgency.”

Biro says the Going Place’s location has a critical need.

“Tallahassee holds the poorest area code in the state of Florida – 32304,” Biro said, noting the drop-in center is in one of the statistically poorest areas in town. That puts Biro and her team in a position to help people, ages 11-21, get into housing, shelters, and off the streets — “in an area where there are kids who might not be going to school, or practicing sex work, or running away or homeless.”

CCYS has managed to keep programs going through funding from the City of Tallahassee, the United Way and other local sources, as well as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Continuum of Care program.  

Still, funding coming in isn’t meeting the operation’s total budget. Now, CCYS is trying different avenues to fill in the blanks.

“Just trying to get creative to write for grants, write for foundation money, and get support through … donations,” Priest said.

Priest adds he can’t help but feel like the loss in funding in recent years is political in nature.

“It’s politics, more than anything else – it’s really about movement of money to certain things,” Priest said. “So when you have things like the military, border security and things of that nature – that’s taken more of a priority than funding for our programs.”

Still, Biro says, the search for funding is ultimately about serving the young people who need it most:

“Each one is completely different, we’ve never met the same kid twice.”

The organization is hosting its Sleep-Out event, now in its fifth year, in partnership with the Big Bend Homeless Coalition at Cascades Park on November 7. Those interested in attending or fundraising for the event can visit www.sleepoutTLH.org

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.