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We write to correct some inaccuracies that appeared in “Towering Loss” (7/19), on the YWCA/NCA’s decision to close our government-funded Tower residential program for girls in the D.C. juvenile justice system.

Unfortunately, the District government’s financial crises left us with no choice but to close the Tower. For years we struggled to keep the Tower’s doors open because of our commitment to serving the District’s youth.

The District’s cash-flow situation, however, only worsened, so that in recent years the government has fallen months behind in its payments, stretching our already thin resources to the breaking point. Despite the article’s quotation of city officials’ assurances of timely payments, the December 1995 payment was not received until April 1996, and the January 1996 payment was received in May of this year—to cite just a few recent examples.

Again, contrary to your article’s assertions, we aggressively sought alternative funding sources to cover the Tower’s deficit. However, our efforts to secure foundation support were thwarted; funders told us that the Tower, as a government service, should be supported by government funds.

Nonprofit organizations like the YWCA/NCA daily face the challenge of providing community programs in a time of limited financial support. When funds dry up—due to government cutbacks or shifts in foundation priorities, for example—nonprofits must explore new programmatic opportunities to serve the public; no nonprofit can indefinitely offer services that do not receive adequate funding. We deeply regret that we could not continue to operate the Tower under the current circumstances.

Finally, despite your article’s suggestion to the contrary, the YWCA/NCA remains committed to serving the community’s at-risk women and girls. This summer, for example, marks the YWCA’s successful collaboration with Best Friends, a youth development and mentoring program for D.C. teens. Our highly successful Nontraditional Employment for Women program offers free job training services to women in need. We offer scholarships for needy students participating in our home health aide and practical nursing training programs. And a new management partnership at our Fitness Center enables us to offer improved health and fitness services at the same affordable prices—thus facilitating participation by seniors and low-income members.

In short, we are constantly striving to improve our services to D.C. and its surrounding communities at a time of great financial challenge. This is no easy task, but we remain committed to the effort.


Josephine E. Pamphile

Executive Director

YWCA of the National Capital Area