CHICAGO (CBS) — Hope is fading fast for a south suburban youth center that has helped thousands of children and teens, many who oftentimes had nowhere else to turn.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports the Bremen Youth Center in Oak Forest may be forced to close due to lack of funding, along with a township supervisor who no longer wants to cooperate.
A young woman, Maria, said she’s finally getting the help that she needs.
“I was very depressed. I was going through a lot of issues and I felt alone,” she said, turning to therapy at Bremen Youth Services for treatment she could afford. “Nobody else has the financial aid that this place provides.”
The help, however, may be short lived. The 54-year-old agency may be forced to close its doors for good next month.
“It’s my whole life,” stated Don Sebek, who has been the Executive Director for 46 years. “What it does to the kids is criminal.”
On Monday, a $25,000 lease payment is due and money has run out, two years since his struggle to stay open began after Bremen Township abruptly cut all of his funding, channeling resources to another agency.
“[I feel] betrayed, without a doubt; stabbed in the back,” Sebek said.
75-year-old Sebek said, in hindsight, funding red flags went up when Bremen Youth Services needed a new building. The agency and Bremen Township struck a deal, laid out in a lease.
The township would give the youth services center $300,000 per year. $200,000 would go towards services and $100,000 would toward paying off the building.
“After that, for the next ten years, we’re rent free in the building,” Sebek said the agreement promised.
Sebek claimed in 2015, Township Supervisor Maggie Crotty began asking for certified accounting sheets, client lists — a HIPPA violation — and a first-ever RFP. The agency lost, but it was left on the hook to pay off the building at $25,000 per quarter.
Sebek was forced to cut staff, clients, and services and said he is finally out of options.
“There’s no one to turn to and that’s hurting the kids in our community,” said David Bryant, a board member and former Robbins Police Officer.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov went to Bremen Township’s offices to get an explanation, but did not have any luck.
Bremen Youth Services has been making some ends meet with other funding and donations, but it is no longer enough to keep the doors open.