PEORIA — After a decade of financial hardships, YWCA of Peoria recently announced it will file for bankruptcy and close.
“YWCA Peoria has experienced financial challenges for the past several years,” said Vice President of the YWCA of Peoria Board of Directors Joy Duling. “I describe what has happened as the ‘perfect storm’ of financial troubles — heavy debt load from properties purchased to provide housing programs; an economic downturn which caused corporate and individual donors to pull back on their contributions; grants that are being reduced, behind on payments or cut altogether.
“The Board needed to look at all of these circumstances and deterimine if it would be possible to turn the financial situation around. At this time, it does not appear realistic to expect a near-term improvement.”
In an attempt to stay afloat, the agency downsized last year by laying off 13 employees and moving out of its headquarters in Lakeview Park. To prevent a foreclosure on a $3 million mortgage, YWCA of Peoria returned its Lakeview Park facility to the mortgate holder, Heartland Bank.
The Heart of Illinois Continuum of Care, a coalition of area agencies that provides services and housing for the homeless, recently met with the YWCA of Peoria Board of Directors to discuss possibilities for transferring YWCA of Peoria programs to other agencies.
“Talks are ongoing to determine how to transition programs and resolve debt,” said Duling. “The YWCA Peoria is currently working with other community agencies to determine whether transition of programs is feasible. We are in conversation with several agencies and are optimistic that transitions will be possible.”
YWCA of Peoria is trying to transition all of its programs, before they close.
“No specific closure date has been established,” said Duling. “We are planning for each program individually, so it is quite possible that we will see one program transition on one date, another on a different date and a third on a subsequent date.
“It is our sincere hope that there will be no lapse at all in programmatic operations and that we can transition programs away before we need to close our doors. However, with that being said, the need to cease operations is quite critical, so we do not expect there to be a long transition period.”
South Side Office of Concern recently agreed to take over responsibility for the YWCA of Peoria’s permanent supportive housing program on Glendale Avenue in Peoria. About 40 families live in the 16 apartments that are maintained through the program. South Side Office of Concern staff began working with those families last week.
Dream Center agreed to take over YWCA of Peoria’s overnight shelter program for homeless women and traditional housing program last week.
The Salvation Army signed a letter of intent with Housing Urban Development to begin offering daytime assistance to those who utilized the YWCA of Peoria’s day center program.
YWCA of Peoria has served the greater Peoria area for 118 years.
“The YWCA has been a part of Peoria for more than 100 years, with a mission to empower women,” said Duling. “From fighting social injustices, to providing safe childcare so women can work outside the home, to recognizing women of influence and leadership, the YWCA means something different to every woman who has experienced our programs.
“We are, of course, ceasing operations with heavy hearts, but we are encouraged to see the interest that exists among other agencies to step in and take care of our clients. Our top priority right now is focusing on caring for our clients and our staff.”
YWCA of Peoria currently employs 22 people and serves about 200 people a day in housing programs ranging from emergency shelter to permanent supportive housing.