Metro-East News

Metro-east autism center closes; homeless shelter asks for donations

The Center for Autism in Maryville announced this week that it would be closing permanently at the end of the state’s fiscal year without a budget plan.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic-controlled Legislature have been unable to come to an agreement on a spending plan for the fiscal year that ended Thursday. Lawmakers adopted a partial-year budget plan to keep government operating for six months and schools funded for a full year.

That plan will not help the autism center, located at 2730 N. Center St., Maryville, though. It closed its doors on Thursday.

The center is a program of UCP Heartland, a nonprofit organization that aids people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. During the Illinois budget impasse, UCP Heartland provided more than $150,000 out of its financial reserves for the center’s operating costs, according to a statement from Richard Forkosh, president and CEO of UCP Heartland, and Amanda Marti, formerly the autism center’s director.

Forkosh and Marti stated that the board of directors voted to close the center because of a “lack of progress in locating ongoing funding.”

The center offered a variety of services, including screenings to check for signs that a child may have developmental delays, groups to enhance adaptive social skills for children with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome and more.

“We have been blessed to work with many wonderful families,” Forkosh and Marti wrote in the statement.

Homeless shelter raising funds to stay open

In Granite City, a homeless shelter for women and children is facing closure if it is unable to raise $100,000 by the end of August, according to executive director Janice Donaldson.

Donaldson said Thursday the shelter had raised about $20,000 so far.

The Good Samaritan House, 1825 Delmar Blvd., was supporting itself without state funding during the budget impasse by “getting very skinny,” Donaldson stated in a news release.

But the agency’s annual revenue shrunk by 42 percent when a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant was not renewed this year.

Board President Mark Donavon called the loss of funding “very unexpected.”

“Without the immediate support and partnership of the St. Louis community, we will be unable to remain open and continue to serve the needs of homeless women and children as we have done continuously since 1998,” he stated in the release.

Donaldson said there are not many places left that can house the metro-east’s homeless.

“This is going to be a tragedy if we have to close,” she said.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes