Smiddy criticizes cuts to preventive programs
Statehouse candidate tours YWCA in Sterling
|Mike Smiddy listens to Rebecca Munoz-Ripley, director of marketing and community service at the YWCA of the Sauk Valley, speak about the YW’s preschool and education system. (Ross Haleyfirstname.lastname@example.org )|
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STERLING – A little girl with curly hair and big brown eyes peered around the entryway, curiously watching as a small group of people made its way through her temporary home.
The girl is one of 80 people who each year find refuge at a shelter operated by the YWCA of the Sauk Valley, an entity that has faced budget cuts and a seemingly never-ending need.
With only four bedrooms, the YWCA often can’t meet demand, Crisis Services Director Shelly Brantley said. Over the last year, 46 families were turned away.
They try to find alternatives, Executive Director Carol Fitzgerald said, but Whiteside County, one of the two counties the Sterling-based YWCA serves, does not have a year-round homeless shelter.
“I’m just trying to take it all in,” Mike Smiddy said, pointing specifically to the number of clients the YWCA programs serve.
The Hillsdale Democrat toured YWCA facilities Thursday morning, asking questions about services and sprinkling in comments on policy.
He is running against state Rep. Rich Morthland to represent the redrawn 71st House District, which shifted to include more of Whiteside County, including the Sterling-Rock Falls area.
At one of the YW’s preschool classrooms painted a light blue with white clouds, Smiddy told Rebecca Munoz-Ripley, director of marketing and community service, about his two young boys, Logan, 7, and Ian, 6, and his wife, Deb, who is a music teacher.
He’s not sure about year-round school, he told Munoz-Ripley and Fitzgerald. He also wonders whether the younger kids have the attention spans to handle longer school days.
The YWCA has experienced a steady decline in revenue over the last 10 years, Fitzgerald said. No one has received raises in 5 years, she added.
Its domestic violence program has lost four to five staff positions, Brantley said. It used to have a transitional housing program and a full-time person to implement it, but that’s gone now. The YWCA used to have a medical advocate as well.
The immigrant resource program had a close call with funding this year, Fitzgerald said.
As the YWCA’s immigrant outreach caseworker, Raquel Herrera helps families with all sorts of things that would never seem like challenges to non-immigrants.
She’ll walk a family through finding a day care center, for example, so that the mother can get a job and bring in a second income. She’ll help them do the interviews with the centers and fill out the paperwork.
The funding for the program, which was created in late 2008, comes from two places, United Way of Whiteside County and Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
Late on June 29, Fitzgerald received a call from the coalition, telling her that its state funding had been cut, so it had decided to focus on urban areas.
That meant the YWCA needed to come up with a new funding source 2 days before the start of the next fiscal year. An $11,000 grant from United Way came through this week.
Smiddy is opposed to cutting funding for education and preventive programs like those provided by the YWCA. Working for the Illinois Department of Corrections at East Moline Correctional Center, he said he sees what the YWCA deals with, the abusive fathers or the kids who grow up to be troubled adults.
When asked about the state’s budget, Smiddy said he would rather take a look at the tax cuts being offered to corporations.
Go to saukvalley.com/election2012 to find out which candidates are running in your district. Click on a candidate's photo to learn more about him or her.
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