If you weren’t aware that there’s a homeless/runaway shelter for teens in Centre County, you’re certainly not alone.
The Burrowes Street Youth Haven, located on S. Burrowes Street, is easy to miss if you’re not paying close attention, as it appears more like a home than a shelter from the street. However, in its eight-year existence, the Haven has been able to help countless teens by providing residential care and counseling services. The three-story shelter is able to house four at a time, with the potential for two more in emergency situations. In addition, there’s a kitchen, living room, and activities room to create a more home environment for the kids.
The mission of the Haven is simple enough: It ensures that any kids between 12 and 17 years old experiencing family issues, homelessness, or any other crisis have a safe and supportive place to stay for a short period of time. The max amount of time that anyone can stay at the home is 21 days, as there’s a strong emphasis on keeping the kids with their families. However, that doesn’t mean that all contact is cut off after 21 days.
“We’re in contact with the kids for as long as they need help,” said Bob French, the program supervisor and 2011 Penn State graduate.
While at the home, the kids are on a routine that sets times for homework, chores, and even dinner. This is done to mimic home life as much as possible as well as to keep the kids involved.
“Dinner is usually a big event that keeps the kids involved,” said French. “We like to replicate that sitting down and eating together and just talking about things.”
However, a lot of emphasis is also placed on non-residential services, such as family and individual counseling to help the kids return to their families. Family counseling is often extremely helpful, as it forces families to get together and work out problems with the help of a counselor.
“It’s all about building relationships,” said program director Vanessa Baronner. “It’s just having someone be there to coordinate a conversation with the family.”
In terms of outreach, the Project Safe Place initiative has really helped raise awareness about the Haven throughout the community. Basically, the Project Safe Place initiative designates 25 spots and shops around Centre County where kids can go to if they need any sort of help. Once the kids have identified that they need help, the stores will contact the Haven, who can handle the situation from there.
This increased outreach has led to a lot of involvement from both churches and groups from Penn State alike, which often hold lunches, dinners, and parties for the Haven. In addition, a lot of supplies like food and hygiene products are donated, which prevents any unnecessary costs.
“People are always trying to help, which is really good,” noted French.
So while the work may be hard at times, the community involvement in Centre County is enough to make a positive change on many kids’ lives.
“It’s a great place to be for families in need,” said French.
Added Baronner, “The work can be tough, but there’s never a dull moment.”