New teen shelter accepts first client
Fundraising efforts to build a shelter for homeless teens had been thwarted many times in the past few years, but dedicated board members relied on faith and hope to leap the hurdles placed in their way.
“This place is really a miracle,” John Mok-Lamme, executive director of Karis, Inc., said with emotion as he a addressed a crowd of supporters at Long’s Memorial Park Wednesday afternoon.
He explained that the shelter had planned to open on Wednesday, but received a call from a teen who needed help Tuesday night, which officially opened the center’s doors.
“I don’t know if you’re ever fully prepared, but I think this kiddo who showed up is an example of those we’re going to help — he’s a great kid who is just in an adverse situation,” said Aaron Stites, program coordinator for The House.
Stites anticipates helping 140 teens over the next year.
Some of those hurtles, Mok-Lamme said, have included lack of contributions during the holiday months, organized fundraising events such as a car show in which nobody registered to participate, and no money left to buy beds for the shelter.
Those who did give, however, gave generously by the thousands.
“I’d get $10,000 and I’d never meet that person,” Mok-Lamme said.
In a last minute crisis, he continued, funding for the house itself was all but lost six days before the shelter was to open.
“Hilltop came in and purchased the house then leased it back to us, all in just six days,” he said.
“So I cannot tell you how it feels to have helped a child last night,” he said.
Mok-Lamme and his board of directors and volunteers raised over $150,000 to open the shelter and cover most costs for the two years.
The shelter is at an undisclosed location because many teens are hiding from adverse situations such as the sex trade, Mok-Lamme said.
Within 2 hours upon arriving at the shelter, the teens parents are called. Within 48 hours, a team of volunteers will help establish a plan for the teenager to move into self-sufficiency. Each teen can stay at the shelter for three weeks, which is in compliance with Colorado State law, Mok-Lamme said.
In-house mental health counseling, educational counseling, and medical attention are provided by a trained group of professionals and volunteers.
“We’re also the only shelter in the state that receives no federal funding,” Mok-Lamme said.
All the more reason to be thankful for such a remarkable community, Stites said.
“This is such a special place and I really don’t think it could’ve happened in any other community,” he added.
After releasing white doves in celebration of the shelter’s opening, Mok-Lamme told the many teens in attendance from Central High School that all they need to do is call 424-8958 to find help and a warm bed at The House.
For more information, visit http://www.thehousegj.org.