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County budget cuts force clients of SRC’s Southwest Center to leave friends behind

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By Ramsey Scott

The garden-level room at Hope Crossing Church on South Wadsworth Boulevard has become a home away from home for clients of the Seniors’ Resource Center’s Southwest Adult Day Center.

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But on Friday, the center will be forced to close after $400,000 was cut from the SRCs’ 2013 budget by the Jefferson County commissioners. The Southwest Center’s eight staff members are being laid off.

“It’s hard to say goodbye. Our folks are family,  said Janette De La Cruz, the center’s director. “It’s saying goodbye to a family member you’ll never see again.”  

The center, which opened three years ago, had become a second home for the more than 30 people who use its services every week, De La Cruz said. 

“Most of these people are old friends, and I enjoy them. Because I am an old friend,” said Lois Porter, who has been coming to the center for two years.

For the senior and disabled clients who relied on the center for companionship and care, everyone in the room was an old friend, even for someone attending for the first time.

“It’s like the first day of school,” De La Cruz said of new arrivals. “They don’t know anybody; they’re afraid.” 

But the elders and staff made it a point to treat any new person like family, she said.  

‘They treated them like family’ 

For the family members and caregivers of the elderly and disabled clients, the center’s services are irreplaceable.

“I would not be able to work, myself or my daughter, if we didn’t have this program,” said Maria Martinez, whose father has Alzheimer’s disease and has been attending various day sites run by the Seniors’ Resource Center for 20 years. “I wouldn’t be able to hold down a job if I didn’t have it.” 

With the Southwest Center closing, Martinez will have to take time off work to find a place that can care for her father during the day.

Martinez said it’s getting harder to find caregivers that take Medicare patients. And she doubts she can find one that provides the same personal care and affection to her father.

“They respect the elders; they treated them like family,” Martinez said. 

Along with finding a new daytime home for her father, Martinez she also must find a way to get him there. The SRC provided transportation to clients, but those services are being cut back as well. 

“It’s just not that easy. He can’t take a taxi like a normal person,  Martinez said.

De La Cruz has heard those concerns from many of the families whose parents came to the Southwest Center, which allowed the family members to work, go shopping or just get a break from the stresses of caring for an elderly or disabled family member, she said.

Many families also worry that they won’t find another center where they’ll be as comfortable leaving loved ones.

“It’s finding the right staff  that place that’s going to be that second home,” De La Cruz said. 

When De La Cruz was informed Dec. 12 that the Southwest Center would close, one word described her state of mind: devastated.

“Each day it doesn’t seem to get better,” De La Cruz said. 

Like her staff, De La Cruz must find a new job. She said she recently moved out of her townhome and into her daughter’s house.

De La Cruz has been working for the SRC for 13 years and doesn’t look forward to starting a job search. And in a cruel twist of fate, the center is closing on her own mother’s birthday.

Yet De La Cruz seems more concerned with the people that walk though the door every day than with her own situation. 

“I think it’s sad that budget cuts have to affect our elderly,  she said.

‘A place where you belong’

Diana Folsom can’t hide her frustration at the Southwest Center being closed. Folsom began coming to the center in October; she suffered a stroke last year and couldn’t go back to work.

“I couldn’t stay at home, so they got me here,  she said. “I love it here. You feel safe. You feel like you have a place where you belong.” 

Somewhat younger than most of the clients, Folsom helps to set up chairs and get water for the others. She counts every person in the room as her friend.

“When you have a place like this and they take it away from you, it’s just not right. And it comes down to politics and how deep someone’s pockets are,” she said. “And these pockets just aren’t deep enough. I know it’s kind of harsh, but that’s my feeling.” 

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.