MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
Lillye Pitter remembers the shock everyone felt this week when she and fellow employees got word that SAFY was shutting down its four Group Homes For Children in Montgomery.
Pitter says she worked as a specialist the South Court Street location.
"A lot of people were upset. Some had bought cars, others had moved into apartments," said Pitter.
Demetria Parnell is the Executive Director of SAFY, the Ohio group that runs Group Homes For Children. Parnell tells WSFA 12 News that Pitter isn't telling the full story. All 31 employees at the four homes were informed in mid-September of SAFY's decision to shut down.
And Parnell adds that employees were given two-weeks severance pay.
"We did the best we could. When we took over we knew this was a troubled organization," said Parnell.
Parnell says in essence that's when the financial struggles started. SAFY took over the homes one year ago and knew it was going in behind the financial 8-ball, so-to-speak; bills had to be paid, facilities needed to be upgraded, in all SAFY invested around $500,000 for payrolls, computers and renovations.
"It was never a mistake. It is never a mistake to help children," said Parnell.
The problem now is SAFY says it doesn't have enough money to keep the operation going even though the non-profit agency hasn't lost any contracts. In fact, Group Homes For Children has a contract with DHR and Montgomery County and the city of Montgomery were about to cut them a check totaling $190,000.
Parnell says it took $1.5 million dollars in fiscal year 2009 to fund the day-to-day operations.
"It hasn't been enough to support it. We didn't have enough for instance for extracurricular activities and tutoring," Parnell said.
As far as how much money SAFY says it needed to keep the homes in operation, WSFA 12 News posed that question to SAFY's headquarters in Ohio and they never responded.
So about the homeless children, the runaways, teenagers who found shelter and comfort at one of the four homes. On any given day up to 25 children stayed at the homes, all participating in the 21-day program. Pitter says the program aims at trying to get the child back in a stable environment.
"I'm not concerned about me. I'm concerned about the children.. where will they go?" Pitter wondered.
"SAFY is working with DHR to find homes for these children and some of these children have already found alternative homes," said Parnell.
By late October all 4 homes in Montgomery will be closed.