Proposed 2021 budget does not cover Safe Harbor, other non-profits

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) As city council members begin to debate, finalize, and approve the Fiscal Year 2021 City of Cheyenne budget, many non-profit organizations were left out of the first draft.

One of those non-profits being Safe Harbor, a Children's Justice Center.

Since 1999, Safe Harbor has served the children of Cheyenne that experience child abuse. They do this with forensic interviews.

A forensic interview with a child alleviates the stress put on them by only having them do one interview in a comfortable setting.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Safe Harbor was considered an essential service and kept their doors open. They served 21 children from March 15 to the end of April.

And, since first opening their doors, in partnership with the Cheyenne Police Department, Safe Harbor has interviewed over 1,196 children. Aside form the police department, they have interviewed over 2,360 children.

"Now numbers are just numbers," said Director Lynn Storey-Huylar. "What we're talking about, and hat you need to know is, that when I talk about forensic interviews, I'm talking about children. Children who's stories are like this."

She continues, "A little boy who we interviewed, who was confined to a dog food bag at night, and starved, and only given a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He came to me for a forensic interview, he was so malnourished and starved, the whole time he was trying to be interviewed, he would have to run to the bathroom and have diarrhea."

Safe Harbor receives community funding from the city. As a non-profit, this is one of their only sources of profit besides fund-raisers.

"We were completely taken out of the budget," said Storey-Huylar. "That, for our program, is about, maybe even a little bit more, about a 20% loss to our program."

Safe Harbor has about a $100,000 budget, meaning it would be a $20,000 loss.

Councilman Rocky Case spoke on the future of the budget, and how Safe Harbor and other organizations might be included.

"The city will save a bit of money, but what are the socio-economic consequences of not continuing to provide those services?" asked Case. "That is not good for the children of our community that needs to benefit from the services that they offer."

The budget is only in it's preliminary stages. It will be reviewed many times before it is finalized.