HOUSTON There are plenty of high-profile impacts from the City of Houston s budget woes.
The parks and recreation department alreadytook a hit when seven community centers reduced their hours last month. They're now open just mornings.
But city officials say the worst is still to come. Unless money is found they will close completely at the end of the month.
That s horrible news for Byron Clark, who uses the center nearly every day. He worries about the alternative: hanging out on the streets.
Lots of things: you can get killed, you can get jumped, you can get shot, said Clark.
That is why he is here on the basketball court under the watchful eye of his volunteer coach Jessie Hunter.
When they are with me I know that they aren t in trouble. I protect them like I protect my own kids, said Hunter.
Usually he has help from the city and the staff at the Tufley Park Community Center.
It is like a home to us, said Clark.
For those like Clark that use Houston s community centers, they much more than just buildings or a line in a budget.
We come here every day, do our homework, play games get on computers, said Clark. They keep us out of the streets.
Hunter said he had the same experience when he came to the community center as a kid.
We played checkers, pinball, basketball, flag football, basically everything, Hunter recalled.
In all there are seven centers that are already on shortened hours, only open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., mainly to provide food programs.
That is only until the end of this month, they will close completely. The budget savings is said to be about a million dollars a year.
I am upset. I am very upset about that. This is where they come. This is where half of them eat. This is a community center. They need to open it up to the community, Hunter said.
He worries that tragedy will meet the kids if the doors stay locked for good.
Officials say the city has 52 other community centers around Houston that have kept their regular hours.
But those alternatives average about two miles away from the centers that are slated to close.
That s a long walk for a child.