United Way eying Newberg as site for homeless teen shelter
Newberg may soon host a shelter for homeless teens as the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley is exploring the possibility of such a project.
According to City Manager Joe Hannan, there is a general sense within the city that such a shelter is needed. He added that he believes there is support for such a project.
"People think there is a need for a shelter here and it's focused not necessarily on an adult shelter, but on teens," he said.
Elizabeth Schrader, director of resource development for the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley, said this project came about via a number of avenues. She added that the organization has a strong relationship with Newberg, especially with A-dec Inc., a company constantly looking to invest in the community. The second, she said, is the resource room at Newberg High School. The room was initially started by two parents who worked to ensure students who needed certain everyday items had them on location at the school.
"This appealed to me as they were meeting basic needs there at the point the kids needed them at that day," Schrader said.
United Way later supplied a grant to expand the NHS resource room, and in developing relationships at the schools and in the community they asked about what more was needed. That's when A-dec asked the organization to replicate a program United Way was doing in Salem.
Schrader said in Salem, there are a minimum of 200 high schools student who are not just couch surfing, but sleeping on the streets. She said while there are 24-hour care facilities, many students either don't have the capacity to go there or the ability to get there. A student helped spearhead the project to create a teen shelter for homelessness in Salem and United Way was able to assist, along with grants.
"Today the shelter is now in full operation," Schrader said.
United Way took over a vacant building that had been used by Catholic Charities as something of a shelter in the past, and now it can serve 10 youths at a time. It is not a long-term living situation, she said, but instead works to get kids back on their feet and connected with healthy environments, either through reunification with their families or finding a different stable environment.
"It's a transitional program," she said.
United Way purchased and renovated the Salem building, eventually turning it over to a local organization to operate it.
So the idea is for a similar shelter in Newberg. Schrader said after discussions with Newberg Interim Superintendent Joe Morelock she determined that there is a definite need for such a shelter for local students, as there could be as many as two dozen students who are homeless in the school system. Those numbers are hard to know for certain, as they are usually self-reported.
Schrader said right now, plans for a Newberg shelter are in the early stages, although she's received a generally positive response. She added that she continues to engage the community to gauge the support and continue to go over the next steps. Schrader will meet with local state Rep. Bill Post on Jan. 10 about this issue. She said since United Way is not a service provider, they would need to find a local organization to operate the shelter once it's up and running.
"We're really at the beginning stages," she said.
In the meantime, she said United Way is building a website for the Newberg shelter and encouraged anyone in the area interested in getting involved to reach out the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley. She added that they are always looking to talk to community members about getting people involved and engaged.