Utah couple works to open homeless youth shelter

Posted at 9:55 PM, Oct 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-20 23:59:22-04

OGDEN, Utah -- Ogden's homeless youth will soon have a place to stay overnight instead of being out on the streets.

One Utah couple is working to open a residential support facility to house children ages 12 to 17.

There hasn't been a place like this before because until this July Utah laws considered housing a child in a shelter overnight as harboring a minor, and illegal.

The 'Temporary Homeless Youth Shelter Amendments' were passed during the last legislative session. They allow for the licensing of such

facilities, and require them to call the Division of Child and Family Services within 48 hours of the youth arriving at the shelter.

Youth Futures Shelter Home Executive Director, Kristen Mitchell, told FOX 13, "At eight hours we have to notify their parents. At 48 hours we have to notify DCFS. They can still stay here. We can help them find placement, we can help advocate for them, help reunify with their families if that's what works best for them."

According to experts, the problem of homeless youth in Utah is very real, though often unseen.

Rachel Peterson is the Executive Director for Outreach Resource Centers.

"I think it's bigger than anyone recognizes because these youth are hidden either literally hidden in camps and what we call off the grid, or sometimes they're hidden in plain sight where they're sleeping on someone's couch or sleeping outside in their car," Peterson said.

Ogden resident Mary Bilderback said she's taken in kids before.

"I've had friends of my kids when they were younger and they would have a fight with their parents or they were kicked out of their house or whatever and they didn't have any place to go and you know what are you going to do, say no? Throw them on the street?" Bilderback asked.

Mitchell hopes to open the Youth Futures Shelter Home by December or January with room for 15 kids every night.

"If they're a runaway, if they've been kicked out by their families, whatever reason that they're homeless they can come here," Mitchell said.

As a private facility with no ties to the juvenile justice system, Mitchell said she wants the kids who come to her shelter to feel at home.

"We'll serve meals, three meals a day. We're shooting for a home-like environment. It's a group home so we want the kids to feel safe and secure and feel like it's a home for them while they're in transition," she said.

St. Anne's Shelter in Ogden plans to create a special section of their shelter for people ages 18 to 23.

Volunteers of America in Salt Lake City has been fundraising to build an overnight youth shelter but have not broken ground yet.

Youth Futures Shelter Home is always looking for donations and funding. For more information, click here: