SALT LAKE CITY -- At any given time, there are between 800 and 1,000 young people living on the streets in Utah.
But now those youth will soon have access to a state of the art resource center at 888 South 400 West in Salt Lake City.
The new resource center from Volunteers of America in Utah will be six times larger than the group’s current site on State Street, and it is specifically built to help homeless youth. It includes classrooms, a dining room and just a place to hang out.
"Youth experiencing homelessness struggle when they're sheltered with other adults; we want to provide them their own space from which they can provide, they can experience stabilization, and then move on from there,” said Rob Wesemann, who is a division director of homeless services with the VOA in Utah.
If anyone understands the need for a youth shelter, it’s Nicole Lowe—who now serves as an Assistant Attorney General in the child protection division of the office.
Lowe was homeless at age 13, and she said she started drinking heavily and did drugs as well as sold them. She also found herself pregnant at age 17.
She said she had no plans to get off the streets, until then.
“When he was born, when I looked into his face, I couldn't do it, I couldn't take him out there,” she said. “He was so little, and he was so fragile that I couldn't do that."
Lowe said her decision to improve her life was made first for her son but later for herself as well.
She got her high school diploma and then an associate degree from Salt Lake Community College. Then she earned a bachelors in psychology from the University of Utah—where she also earned a law degree.
She has been with the child protection division of the AG’s Office since graduation.
"What these kids need is safety and food, a shelter, and somebody that really believes in them,” she said. “That's what makes the biggest difference. Without that, all they focus on is getting their next meal, where they're going to sleep at night."
Lowe wants homeless youth to know there is help out there for them. She said she knows for a fact that, with help, anything is possible.
“I know that every single one of them can turn out to be something great, 'cause if I did it, any one of them can do it,” she said
The two-story facility will be about 20,000 square feet and comes at a cost of about $6 million. The money is a mixture of private donations and funds from federal and state entities
The center is expected to be complete in the spring of 2016.