DECATUR — A local veterans assistance program is among the cuts that Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois announced Monday.
The organization is restructuring its services following several years of financial challenges and changing needs, it said in a news release.
Decatur’s veterans assistance program is one of nine programs that will close. About 100 positions, a quarter of the organization’s total workforce, will be eliminated, it said.
“This has been an agonizing decision, particularly due to the impact on our clients and their families, as well as our employees whose jobs were eliminated,” LCFS President and CEO Mike Bertrand said in a news release. “We are refocusing our mission to what we as an agency are best at, which is serving traumatized children and their families as a child-welfare organization.”
The Decatur veterans program launched in 2011. It worked together with D&O Properties One LLC toward a goal of providing housing for homeless veterans, as well as support services such as treatment of mental illness and substance abuse, and vocational training.
"The vouchers that support the rental assistance remain with the project and are not dependent on having case management services," said Jim Alpi, executive director of Decatur Housing Authority. "The housing component of the program remains unchanged."
Lucy Brownlee, special projects manager for D&O Properties, said it's sad to watch yet another important service shuttered due to lack of funds. D&O will do its best to carry on, but a critical factor will be missing.
The housing project to serve homeless veterans, which includes the North Street Commons complex that opened in 2013, is almost at capacity, with 15 of 16 units occupied. The Decatur Housing Authority provides rent assistance, and D&O holds monthly meetings with the veterans.
“It's just they're losing the case management, the key piece, the third leg of the stool as we call it, to making it a successful project,” Brownlee said. “They support our people so they can be stabilized and improve their lives. It's a very sad thing, that's the way I see it. The state government is watching as the most vital of services are being shut down as a motivation to make us all cow under whatever budget they present. We're just at the mercy of the way the wind blows.”
This isn't the end of veterans' services, she said. The Salvation Army and the Coalition for Veterans Concerns, as well as the Veterans Assistance Commission, are still operating.
“All is not lost, but it sure is a dark day,” Brownlee said.
The Macon County Veterans Assistance Commission can only do so much, said David Freyling.
“There are a lot of homeless veterans in town,” he said. “Either we or somebody else will have to step up and help. We're kind of strapped as to what we can do.”
Timing to wind down each LCFS program depends on several factors, but all are expected to wrap up by the end of June.
In addition to veterans assistance, programs offered at the Decatur office include foster care; individual, marital and family counseling; and family life education.