OGDEN — Ogden is about to gain Utah’s first residential support shelter specifically geared to help youth ages 12 to 17.
Those behind the venture, called Youth Futures, have invested their own resources and much of their lives to make the shelter possible. They say it is designed to create a world where all youth have a safe, supportive and affirming place to call home.
But the Syracuse residents say the shelter can’t happen fast enough and they are betting on the community rallying around them to bring their plans to fruition as soon as possible.
They hoped to be open in time for cold weather but they don’t believe such a dream will be reality.
“The possibility of a kid out on the street dying of exposure increases just daily,” said Scott Catuccio, executive vice president of the Youth Futures Shelter Home.
The shelter, opening up at 2760 Adams Ave., will be available to start helping kids with whatever needs they have Nov. 1, but actually housing them will have to wait until all the government requirements may be met.
A new state law allowing such shelters went into effect July 1 but the rules to govern such facilities still had to be adopted.
Catuccio’s business and life partner, Kristen Mitchell, has helped in writing the new rules. The rules are still up for public scrutiny. They may be viewed at http://www.rules.utah.gov/publicat/bulletin/2014/20140915/38835.htm.
The soonest these rules can be put into force is Oct. 22, allowing the couple to set up shop as soon as they can meet all the licensing requirements.
“If we could be open Nov. 1, I am ready to take kids,” Catuccio said. “I would like it to be Nov. 1 but I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
While grateful for being able to open as a shelter in December or January, Catuccio wishes he could open much sooner.
“Had the law change occurred sooner in the year, our actual ability to open would have been in warmer months when it was less critical, I suppose,” he said.
But with the community’s help, opening at the soonest possible date will be more likely.
The two are hoping members of area community groups will visit the shelter at an open house set for 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17. They are hoping those who visit will see great needs and pitch in where they can.
“We are under construction,” Mitchell said. “We need lots of stuff. We need lots of funding. We are working at getting the community to come in and see.”
Youth Futures is a registered non-profit 501(C)(3) organization that already has garnered support from a number of organizations, including the Standard-Examiner.
Efforts to promote the newspaper’s first ever year-long initiative, Young & Homeless, have included backing the shelter from its conception.
“Our goal is to provide unaccompanied, runaway and homeless youth with a safe and nurturing environment where they can develop the needed skills to become active, healthy, successful members of our community,” said Mitchell, who is president of Youth Futures. “Because shelter care is currently unavailable to youth in Utah, it is essential that we begin providing this needed service.”
At this time Utah has no overnight shelter for homeless youth.
“This means a youth who becomes homeless will sleep on the streets tonight,” Mitchell said. “It is estimated that approximately 5,000 youth experience homelessness in Utah at some point over the course of one year.”
And Mitchell said it breaks her heart to know that these youth have no place to go.
“Adult shelters must turn them away, and drop-in centers can provide them a sleeping bag, tent and food and have had to turn them away also, because it has been illegal to house them,” she said.
The new facility will provide 15 beds in a home-like environment to shelter homeless, runaway and unaccompanied youth.
“Our program will provide these youth with assessment and evaluation, followed by guidance toward family mediation and re-unification or placement in a variety of programs available in the community,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell and Catuccio both have been pursuing such an effort for many years but were unable make their plans a reality without support and changes in Utah’s law.
Catuccio said he moved to Utah 15 years ago from Northglen, Colorado with a plan for a non-profit agency to provide avenues to help kids feel better about themselves. When that didn’t work out, he said he went to work.
He now runs a computer repair business.
Catuccio was homeless himself when he was 16 but he said he was grateful at least to have a job at the time.
Even though he was employed, he said he experienced first-hand the abuses that happen to youths who are homeless and vulnerable.
But now, Catuccio said he wants to change society to give these youth a chance.
“It’s so much easier to deal with personal issues, to deal with trauma when you are younger,” he said. “Things happen to them when they are young and they don’t deal with it until they are older and they have a lifetime of pain. If we can change the cycle so we deal with it when they are younger, everyone is better off.”
Mitchell said she became interested in helping homeless youth when as a single mother, she was trying to find services for her own children.
“I found out there were kids who had it so much worse,” she said. “We had such a lack of resources for youth.”
Mitchell said she’s been wanting to open the shelter for six years, even considering opening such a facility in her Syracuse home at one point.
“As I started out, I found out I couldn’t do it, not without breaking the law,” she said.
Mitchell was one who lobbied for changes in the law made this last legislative session when a bill sponsored by Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, was passed. The legislation was made possible through much effort by Laura Warburton of Huntsville, who serves as a volunteer assistant to Froerer.
The Standard-Examiner Young & Homeless Initiative is an effort to find ways to get the community to come together and lift up youth who are at risk of becoming homeless or who become homeless.
The Standard-Examiner is donating $1 for efforts to fight youth homelessness for every donation made online as part of the Standard-Examiner Young & Homeless initiative, up to $10,000.
To donate, visit https://cares.standard.net/young-homeless/.
You may reach JaNae Francis at 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at JaNaeFrancisSE. Like her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis.