Funding slashed for shelter that helps troubled teens

by: Scott Wickersham Updated:

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GASTONIA - A Gastonia shelter dedicated to helping young people in crisis cannot take any more people.

The organization With Friends lost half of its budget for at-risk teenagers last year when their $200,000 grant from the government was slashed. They said that money could have helped a Gastonia teenager who was recently stabbed on the streets.

Chagan Friday, 19, is turning his life around. He recently got a job, bought a car and graduated from high school. When asked where he would be without the With Friends program, he responded “Probably in jail somewhere, I used to get into trouble a lot.”

Friday and other teens, such as Jakwon Rivera, were homeless until they came to the transitional housing program.

“It’s a safe environment, it’s somewhere you don’t have to worry about where you are going to sleep,” said Rivera.

Program Director Caroline Looney said she has had to cut staff and reduce the number of teens from 11 to eight since her funding was cut last year. She thinks about who she could be helping on the streets right now.

“We have young men who became supervisors at their jobs, two just moved into their own apartment,” Looney said.

Steve Green was being helped by the program but left. Police said he was stabbed by another homeless teen in Gastonia last week. Workers said he tried to get back into the program once he was out of the hospital, but Looney said she does not have the room now.

“This is what he needs for his life,” she said.

Looney said she’s working with lawmakers like congressman Patrick McHenry to try to regain full funding.