Wind Youth Services, Sacramento County Probation Department eye partnership

Agreement could steer kids with ’no other safe place to go' out of juvie

Two young detainees enjoy the offerings of the Sacramento County Youth Detention Facility’s new library.

Two young detainees enjoy the offerings of the Sacramento County Youth Detention Facility’s new library.

Photo courtesy of the Sacramento County Probation Department

Avoiding juvie

The Sacramento region’s only resource specifically for homeless youth may get some much-needed dough to keep kids out of juvie.

Under a still-evolving partnership, the Sacramento County Probation Department is in the process of applying north of $107,000 in grant funds to Wind Youth Services to use as an alternative to detention for low-level offenders who might otherwise be sent to the county's Youth Detention Facility. Chief Probation Officer Lee Seale broke the news in an email to SN&R early Tuesday, saying the partnership was “still coming together.”

“We are channeling some of our budget to them to open up some beds and programming to create alternatives to detention for kids,” he added. “[There] appears to be a really good partnership forming that will help kids to stay out of the juvenile justice system.”

And, in particular, black kids. Seale said one of the racial disparities revealed by probation data is that black youth are detained at higher rates, in part, because family is less available or willing to pick them up once they're ready for release. “These beds at Wind would give us an alternative to detention,” he added.

Nothing has been finalized just yet, and the board of supervisors would need to approve any contract, but both parties are looking forward to a partnership. “These youth are often homeless, and end up in juvenile hall simply because they had no other safe place to go,” said Wind executive director Suzi Dotson.

According to Seale, a mutual friend put him in touch with Dotson, who took over the cash-strapped endeavor this past January.

Wind raised more than $7,600 during Sacramento's recent Big Day of Giving single-day charity drive, but ended 2013 on a string of tough funding news. Wind's popular youth center nearly folded last November, in part, after losing out on a three-year $540,000 federal grant the organization had relied on for years. A bid for $30,635 in Sacramento Employment and Training Agency grant money also fell by the wayside.

According to its website, Wind uses the funds to provide daily meals, medical attention and case management to homeless youth at its center, as well as emergency overnight shelter in north Sacramento, among other efforts.

Those 12 beds are all that exist for runaway and homeless youth in five counties.

Through May 20 this month, the Sacramento Police Department booked eight minors from the city into juvenile hall, including a young couple who police say became physically hostile with officers when they tried to take the 15-year-old girl, who was reported missing, home.

The probation department also recently unveiled its new juvenile hall library, converted from the old “E” housing unit at the youth detention facility on Kiefer Road. Underground Books and the Wiley W. Manuel Bar Association sponsored a book drive to stock the shelves. Detainees can utilize the library on a weekly basis, the department said on its Facebook page.