Creating a safe place for struggling minors
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 00:02
On the front steps of the Jackson Street Youth Shelter, a sign reads: “This is a safe zone.” The sign is small, but the meaning isn’t.
For the homeless youth in Linn and Benton counties, the shelter is one of the only places specifically designed to help them succeed. It is their safe zone.
Other than volunteers and youth in the program, no one can go inside. Everyone in the home intends to be there to improve the minors’ circumstances. In an interview with one of the young women from the shelter, discussed the ways the shelter has benefited her life and become a home for her.
“If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t keep going,” she said.
While sitting outside the shelter she discussed her daily routine.
“I come here a couple of times a week,” she said. “They help me with my homework, we have dinner and on Fridays we watch movies.”
Jackson Street Youth Shelter serves as a home and outreach program for Linn and Benton county youths struggling with homelessness.
“It’s about 75 youth a year that stay with us in the shelter,” said Jackson Youth Shelter Director Ann Craig in a phone interview. “We serve about 70 other youth that are in the outreach program.”
The shelter itself has 12 beds. Craid said on average about four to five people sleep there a night, but they often reach capacity, it depends on the circumstances surrounding the youth in need.
The shelter has been up and running for about two and a half years now, and the staff see a need for growth in the area.
In a letter on the Jackson Street Youth Shelter’s website, Craig states the following regarding their mission. “Although one individual or organization can positively impact a life, it takes a village to provide ongoing support through a lifetime of struggles. We are stronger as a community when we work together.”
The shelter currently has over 59 volunteers helping with various tasks, but they mainly focus on mentoring the youth in the shelter.
The goal of the shelter is to provide an environment where the youth there feel they have a future. In an interview with Megahn Amort, an employee of the Jackson Street Youth Shelter, she discusses how they attempt to provide normalcy.
“We really try and reconnect the individuals with their families, whether that means a Mom, or Dad or Aunt and Uncle, and if that’s not possible we try and find them the next best place,” Amort said.
Amort is one of 17 employees at the shelter. Like the volunteers, the employees work with mentoring as well as providing a touch stone of normalcy for the youth in the shelter. Amort emphasized the youth shelter’s purpose is not a permanent home, but as a place to help improve the minors’ circumstances and reach their goals.
“We often get letters and phone calls that tell us ‘this place changed my life,’” Amort said.
The shelter serves as a home to as many as 12 live-in youths and serves far more.
Both Amort and Craig see the need for an outreach expansion in the community. Amort believes what Corvallis really needs is a youth drop-in center. Craig discusses how the youth shelter plans to expand in the next few years.
“We want to fill in the gaps for this population,” Craig said. “We want to help both in preventing the Linn and Benton county runaway and homeless youth, as well as provide more [recourse].”
Kristy Wilkinson, news reporter