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June 5th, 2013 ANN-DERRICK GAILLOT | News Stories
 

House With No Home

Hales restored lots of city hall spending. Why not services for kids escaping prostitution?

news3_3931JANUS-FACED CITY: “We do have something that is incredibly vital to preserve,” says Dennis Morrow, executive director of Janus Youth Programs. - IMAGE: ronitphoto.com
In the final weeks of writing his first budget, Mayor Charlie Hales restored money to dozens of city programs he had suggested cutting: the Police Bureau’s Mounted Patrol Unit, a county-run mental crisis center and even the Buckman Pool.

But here’s one thing he did cut: $47,000 to help prosecute pimps and $70,000 more to help children who have been forced into prostitution on Portland’s streets.

This cut would have gone all but unnoticed if not for City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, the lone vote against Hales’ entire budget, who cited the cut to the Janus Youth Programs as a big reason.

“I cannot visit the shelter for children escaping from prostitution and look them in the eyes if I vote to cut funding for their safe shelter and treatment,” Fritz said.

The cuts are part of an ongoing struggle between the city and county over which government should fund social-service agencies. Hales and Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen had left the sex-trafficking programs out of a recent deal they reached. After hearing criticism, Hales restored most funding.

But not enough for the Athena House, a shelter for sexually exploited children, run by Janus and funded mostly by the county. The $70,000 program would have served 40 kids next year by paying for tutoring, classes and field trips, including to the Oregon Zoo.

“Who pays for that YMCA class?” asks Dennis Morrow, executive director of Janus. “Or maybe they need specialized tutoring; who pays for that specialized tutoring?”

The other $47,000 Hales cut helps pay for a deputy district attorney who works with police targeting pimps on 82nd Avenue. The Multnomah County district attorney’s office will have to find the money elsewhere. “We’re going to continue prosecuting those cases,” says Jeff Howes, first assistant to the Multnomah County DA. “I think that’s the takeaway here.”

Hales spokesman Dana Haynes says the mayor’s office asked Janus how much money it needed. “We gave Janus what Janus asked for,” Haynes says.

Janus’ Morrow says that’s not the whole story: The mayor’s office asked only what was the bare minimum the program needed to survive. “I basically called it life support,” he says.

Morrow is worried, because Hales has warned Janus the city will cut off all funding for Athena House next year.

“A 13-year-old girl who is being sold for sex on the streets of Portland, there’s no place for them to go without this place,” Morrow says. “These kids largely are invisible. The community doesn’t want to see them. ”

 
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