YOUTH Off The Streets founder, Salesian Father Chris Riley, said he was forced to close his only Queensland facility after battling unsuccessfully for about two years to secure State Families Department funding to keep the facility afloat.
Youth Off The Streets, which has cared for about 45,000 troubled youths, mainly in NSW, over the past 10 years, ran Connie’s Place at Greenbank, south of Brisbane, for about three years.
The 10-bedroom property became the focus of media attention late last month when it was destroyed by fire, and accusations were made that Youth Off The Streets workers and teenagers abandoned the house without informing the owners, and leaving employee records, furniture and electrical equipment.
Fr Riley denies the accusations about abandoning the property, and has the evidence to prove Youth Off The Streets had retrieved its staff and client records, as well as its belongings.
He said staff walked through the facility with the property owner about three weeks ago to check what needed to be done before the organisation left.
Youth Off The Streets closed its Greenbank facility at the end of last year because of financial constraints.
‘We drained $2 million we’d raised in Sydney and NSW to keep that service afloat,’ Fr Riley said.
He said the Youth Off The Streets board told him it was no longer possible to continue running the Queensland facility under those circumstances.
Youth Off The Streets had come to Queensland with the guarantee of corporate funding for the Greenbank facility but that funding source did not continue, and that was why it was being propped up from NSW.
Fr Riley said he had written to the Families Department and Premier Peter Beattie warning them the Greenbank facility would close if government funding was not made available.
He said the department used the facility for young people under its care but was not prepared to provide funds.
He had sought government funding of $65,000 a year for each child but the Queensland Government had tried to negotiate that down to $55,000.
Connie’s Place had accommodated up to five young people at a time, with its target group being males aged 12-17 who had legal issues, were homeless, or dealing with issues of aggression and/or drug and alcohol addiction.
A police spokeswoman said the fire was being investigated.
A Families Department spokesman said Connie’s Place was on the department’s preferred provider’s list and had provided places for a number of young people. But it could not guarantee the number of referrals it would make in the future.
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