Decatur Youth Services in need of more space to keep programs

The program director said they are expecting more than 2,000 kids this year, and they only have three classrooms available to use.

Posted: Sep 16, 2019 5:35 PM
Updated: Sep 16, 2019 7:07 PM

Decatur Youth Services needs more space or they may have to reduce some of the programs they offer students.

They were housed in the former Brookhaven Middle School building, but had to evacuate after the building was condemned. WAAY 31 had the chance to speak with the program coordinator about the challenges they're facing this school year.

Decatur Youth Services had more than enough rooms to do what they needed freely at the former Brookhaven Middle School. Now, they're down to only three classrooms to work in and more than a thousand kids to help.

"It was really a shock to us and really a hard blow, but it didn't knock us out," said Lemzel Johnson, the lead program coordinator at DYS.

That is what Lemzel Johnson told WAAY 31 keeps the staff at Decatur Youth Services motivated. He said since losing classroom space when the former middle school was closed due to health hazards, they are now having to change the way they view their programs.

"A lot of momentum had started because we had been there for a year, and, so, you're looking at the momentum that had already been created," he said.

Johnson said they don't want to short change any of the at-risk youth they serve. For now, they are making scheduling changes so they don't have to cut any programs.

"Readjust some things and refocus and therefore, when we come out, we'll be stronger and better," he said.

The city of Decatur is holding a budget meeting Monday night to discuss ways Decatur Youth Services could get funding for additional space. No matter the outcome, Johnson said they will figure out a way to bounce back.

"I don't think you can put a price or a true quantity on love, and a lot of the youth here need to recognize that somebody loves them," he said.

For now, they have to make due with using one classroom at the youth services building and two classrooms open at the Aquadome recreational center next door. They're hoping things will change soon.

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