VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – A local organization that delivers critical help to teens in crisis throughout Hampton Roads is losing $200,00 in federal funding this year.
Executive Director of Seton Youth Shelters, Jennifer Sieracki, made the announcement this week.
The cuts directly impact the Street Outreach Program (SOP), which includes vans, with a two-person team of counselors, traveling 900 miles across the region to high-risk neighborhoods.
Their goal is to connect with kids that are living on the streets or at risk of doing so.
Sieracki says they reach more than 12,000 youth each year through the program.
“It was a huge, huge blow to the organization for this program,” says Sieracki. “It has had a devastating impact and we were not expecting this.”
Sieracki says the funds help pay for the vans, the supplies, including food and toiletries, and employee salaries. They have already had to let go of a team of two counselors.
She says the SOP is the only organization of its kind in Hampton Roads that is exclusive to youth. More than 2,400 youth in Virginia Beach alone run away from home each year.
“We’ve had many, many success stories through the program and we want to keep that going,” says Sieracki.
One of those success stories is Grey Anderson, a sophomore at Old Dominion University.
“What Seton has done has opened up whole new doors for me,” he says.
Anderson says he was homeless when he was a junior at First Colonial High School after separating himself from his mother, who has a mental illness. He went from finding places to crash on Craigslist and sleeping in hospital waiting rooms, to graduating high school and now studying computer science.
“To know that I’ve gotten through that and I’m able to do things for myself and support myself I feel empowered,” he says. “Now people, like me, may not be able to get that resource that they need.”
Sieracki is hoping that private funding will be able to help bring back what they are losing in federal funding.