Juneau Youth Services will shutter its Cornerstone Residential Facility on Friday in the face of loss of grant funding and changing mission requirements, said JYS director of external affairs Gus Marx.
Cornerstone, which is a temporary shelter for runaway or homeless youth, will be retooled to deal with different types of youths requiring assistance.
“This particular program is one of the first programs that the Juneau Receiving Home did,” said Marx, referring to the old name for the JYS.
The program has had declining usage as more kids turn to couchsurfing apps when looking for somewhere to sleep in fraught situations instead of the youth shelter, as well as the loss of more than $200,000 in grant funding for Cornerstone.
The children who come to JYS are also exhibiting higher levels of required care, Marx said.
“We’re seeing higher needs in kids,” Marx said. “As those needs increase, we’re going to have to change how the program functions.”
The level of mental health goes on a scale from one to five, according to Amy Simonds Taylor, where Level One is the most stable and Level Five requires physical or chemical restraint because the youth has displayed active homicidal ideations. JYS can treat up to Level Four youths, said Taylor, but a hospital is required for anything more serious than that.
Cornerstone is structured to handle youths at Level Two, but more and more youths require more involved treatment and assistance.
“We’re focusing on kids who need the most help,” Marx said.
JYS will reprioritize dealing with those higher-level need youths, while also opening a therapeutic foster group home in the spring for youths from age 9-11. That age can be the most critical for kids who need to be re-homed.
“The goal is to be able to place the child back with the family,” Taylor said.
If that’s not possible, she said, they hope to be able to give the child some permanency, some traction wherever they do get homed, to minimize the disruption that comes with changing homes and living situations so drastically.
JYS will also be expanding some of its other programs to deal with increased demand. Its transitional living program, which houses youths from 16-21, learn some life skills as they transition to living independently.
According to the Juneau Police Department, youth in distress should call 911 until Cornerstone restores its services.