DES MOINES, Iowa -- A newly renovated facility in downtown Des Moines is hoping to be a safe haven for homeless youth and give them a stable environment, so they can bounce back and thrive.
“We do outreach, we go in our vans, we go around to different camp sites and different hangout locations like the library, skywalks. We try to make those connections with the youth,” said Elizabeth Patten, program coordinator the Youth Opportunity Center.
Homeless youth aren not always easy to spot, but they're out there and they have needs, Patten said. That's where the newly renovated facility for the Youth Opportunity Center comes in.
“Youth who are experiencing homelessness can come in off the streets have a safe place to stay. We’ll be serving lunch and dinner. We have a brand new kitchen that will help with that. We have laundry facilities, shower facilities,” Patten said. “We have a brand new computer lab, an art studio. We really do want this to be a space where youth can get all of their needs met.”
Iowa Homeless Youth raised nearly $3 million to renovate the former Iowa State Bank building at 612 Locust St. The center includes nine new beds for homeless youth.
“They’ll have pimps and people come up to them within the first day or two that they’re on the streets, soliciting them to join their organizations. These beds will help those kids not have to make that choice. Not have to make a choice of doing survival sex to have that safe shelter,” said Toby O'Berry, Director at Iowa Homeless Youth.
City Councilman Chris Coleman says the mark of any community is how well it treats its most vulnerable people.
“What a great place in the middle of our beautiful downtown. It’s not just for the rich and powerful and the big businesses, but it’s for all the people of Des Moines and I love that it’s right here. I love that all the neighbors, the business neighbors around here were all supportive of this facility coming here, and I think that says something about the heart of Des Moines,” Coleman said.
The center will serve youth ages 16-21 and will officially open in June. To find out more, you can visit iowahomelessyouth.org.