Austin’s House seeking options to remain open
Nevada Appeal News Service
Like so many other organizations, the present economic climate may force Austin’s House to adapt to a new set of circumstances.
First conceived as a shelter for children who have been removed from their homes for their own safety without taking them outside Douglas County, Austin’s House was constructed entirely with donated materials and labor.
“We got it built with the help of lots and lots of businesses,” said Austin’s House President Terry Palmitier.
The 5,300-square-foot refuge for foster children opened its doors in August 2007. Officially the Carson Valley Children’s Center, the home is named for Austin Kirby, a 15-year-old who took his own life in October 2005.
“We had this idea of keeping abused and neglected children in our own community,” Palmitier said. “We’ve served 100 children, so far.”
Palmitier said the first year Austin’s House was open things went well. But when the budget crisis hit, the state started looking for alternatives to placing children in emergency shelters.
“The economy and budget cuts are driving the state to reduce the number of days children are with us,” she said. “The time they’re staying has dropped by 80 percent. The state should be looking for a relative or foster care to place a child with before they turn to shelter care.”
The staff at Austin’s House is a third of what it was a year ago, meaning there are only a half-dozen employees. When there are no children in the shelter, employees are laid off.
“We are looking at other options, where we could use Austin’s House for other things and still have beds for emergency placements,” Palmitier said. “But there are many, many things we have to consider before we remake ourselves.”
She said the foundation running Austin’s House is working to keep the budget tight in the hopes of getting through the rough patch.
“We hope only to survive, then when things get better we still have this service,” Palmitier said. “If we have to close, it’s possible we won’t be able to open again.”
Austin’s House is the only emergency shelter serving rural Western Nevada.
“There is no other,” Palmitier said. “If we have to close our doors, there won’t be a place of last resort anymore. Right now we’re a Cadillac. The state doesn’t need a Cadillac, they need an Edsel. We just need to be a really good Edsel, so we can all sleep at night.”