LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -After 53 years of caring for children in Lawton, the J. Roy Dunning Children's Shelter is closing its doors.
After careful consideration, the shelter's board decided after a running up an operating deficit of $122,000 during the last fiscal year, closing is only option. Once the shelter closes, the kids will be re located to a DHS facility because of state policies that don't require them to be placed in a shelter first.
The chairman of the shelter's board admitted their numbers have been declining for a while. They can hold as many as 14, but right now they only have one. Still he's concerned that overcrowding and lack of attention at DHS facilities can't compare to the atmosphere they've created for kids at J. Roy Dunning.
"To close the doors and say well that's it....it is very emotional," said Bill Schneider, chairman of the board.
Seeing kids leave the shelter with a smile is what Schneider says his job is all about, but having to close when DHS could still use their services makes him concerned. Especially in cases where kids are removed from foster homes for various reasons, the shelter has been a safety net.
"A good number of the children that we have been seeing over the last year have been a result of the disruptions in the foster homes, so the children had no place to go, and so they would bring them to the shelter," said Schneider.
The shelter's workers, like Tracy Brown, will soon be forced to find another job, but she says it's not herself that she's worried about.
"There is a need for a shelter in Lawton, especially for the younger children. The younger children don't always have a foster home to go to and I'm just really sad to see that we're having to close down," said Brown.
Brown says it's rewarding watching the children leave and be in good hands, but while they're here, they truly love it.
"To see them walk in the door it's sad, but to see them leave with a smile on their face, and we've got kids that say 'I want to go back to the shelter, I love it there', so it's kind of mixed emotions right now," said Schneider.
The shelter gets funding from the United Way, as well as donations, so the board is deciding how to disperse their remaining funds the J. Roy Dunning Children's Shelter will officially close May 31.