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|[UPDATE] Independent task forces consider YouthPride closed; ED says LGBT youth agency is still open|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|February 20, 2012 19:00|
Volunteer task forces says they now consider YouthPride closed and are implementing a contingency plan devised to relocate programming and services to other agencies. YouthPride is metro-Atlanta nonprofit organization serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth ages 13-24.
"The task forces are now treating YouthPride as if it's non-operational," Charlie Stadtlander told the GA Voice. Statdlander, a gay teacher, organized a Jan. 25 meeting of LGBT leaders and allies that resulted in the formation of two volunteer task forces to look at the financial and legal viability of the agency as well as how to deal with programming should YouthPride shut down.
A request was made by the task force on Sunday, Feb. 19, to Jordan Myers, board president of YouthPride, to answer whether or not he told YouthPride employees that the agency serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth ages 13-24 would close on Friday, Feb. 17.
Myers had until 5 p.m. today, Feb. 20, to respond. Myers did not respond by the deadline, according to Stadtlander. At the Jan. 25 meeting it was agreed between Myers and the task forces that Myers would be the contact person and the person in charge of YouthPride in his role as board president.
"It was not an unreasonable request [made of Myers] and we had hoped to hear back from Jordan. I'm disappointed how this is happening,” he said.
The task force made the request of Myers after receiving information over the weekend that Myers ordered the agency closed on Feb. 17. Tana Hall, the former counselor for YouthPride, told GA Voice that Myers told her last week the agency was stopping operations on Feb. 17. She said she asked to be laid off on Feb. 15 so she could ask for unemployment benefits and informed Myers of this decision.
Numerous attempts to reach Myers were unsuccessful.
Executive director states YouthPride remains open
Terence McPhaul, executive director of YouthPride, however maintains the agency is open and offering its regular programming and no closure date has been set.
The programs offered at YouthPride are the "same as before, except there will be a replacement for Tana Hall," McPhaul told GA Voice. "Some volunteer licensed therapists were already volunteering services to YouthPride. A replacement will be hired for Tana Hall's prior role. All discussion groups will continue as scheduled. If there are changes youth will be properly notified."
McPhaul also stated he believed the agency must continue to remain open to serve the needs of LGBT youth despite support or no support from the board. He also told GA Voice that he is working on 10 grants due this week.
"Whether or not we have the assistance of the board, the work of YouthPride has to go on," McPhaul said. "The rumors of closing are only hurting the children. They can't get lost in this tailspin."
Stadtlander said McPhaul does not have the authority to keep the agency open.
"The executive director works for the board of directors," Stadtlander said. Stadtlander said LGBT youth are at risk if there are questions about whether or not YouthPride is legally open or has been closed.
"I believe that we must be careful in recognizing that the interests and protection of LGBT youth are of the utmost concern in all of our dealings and the actions of adults must be conducted in a way that makes sure the interests of those LGBT youth are protected at all times," Stadtlander said.
Services provided to youth directed to go to other agencies, locations
Kathy Colbenson, executive director of CHRIS KIDS and who headed up the task force on YouthPride's programming, said plans will be put into motion on Tuesday to inform YouthPride clients about support groups, counseling services and HIV testing being relocated to different locations and agencies.
HIV testing will be now handled by AID Atlanta, support groups will meet at Saint Mark United Methodist Church and other venues and CHRIS Kids counseling program as well as private therapists, including Hall, will be referred to youth in need of counseling, Colbenson said.
YouthPride currently has a national helpline phone number for troubled youth and Colbenson said she believed it would be up to McPhaul to transfer that number to another agency.
"We will use social media and hopefully the YouthPride website to let youth know what is going on," she said.
"We want to make this as seamless as possible to make sure the youth are not left high and dry and we have a safety net for them," she said.
YouthPride’s financial troubles became public in December, when Myers posted on Facebook that the agency needed to raise $25,000 in one week, and McPhaul said YouthPride had to raise $40,000 by Dec. 31 or face closure in 60 days.
In the wake of the financial crisis, questioning by GA Voice revealed confusion within YouthPride about such basic issues as who serves on the board of directors and when the last board meeting was held. The task forces stated at a Feb. 8 meeting that YouthPride has not paid some $34,000 in rent and is facing eviction from its landlord, Inman Park United Methodist Church.
A March 6 town hall forum to discuss the problems facing YouthPride will be held at Saint Mark United Methodist Church.
UPDATE: In an interview Monday evening, former counselor Tana Hall said she has not been paid since Jan. 1 and that her health insurance was canceled due to non-payment by YouthPride. She said her health insurance has been abruptly canceled three times since July with no notice due to non payment.
"I have [chronic illness] Crohn's disease. I was given no notice of my health insurance being canceled. I even made a request that my health insurance be paid over my salary," she said. She said requests for information on COBRA, a federal continuing health care program have gone unanswered.
Hall said she made provisions for clients she was seeing at YouthPride and most are seeing her on a sliding-scale as part of a private practice.
Hall added that she has also not received her W2 form. The IRS requires employers distribute W2 forms to employees by Feb. 15.
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