Organizers preparing to open first shelter for homeless youth in Walla Walla

Organizers preparing to open first shelter for homeless youth in Walla Walla

WALLA WALLA, Wash. — It's been 15 years in the making, but organizers said a shelter for homeless youth in Walla Walla is finally opening before the end of summer.

“There’s definitely a big need, and we're ready to take it on,” said program director Erin Coffey.

She said the rates of homelessness in urban and rural areas is the same.

“They’re kind of an invisible population because they’re staying with friends, or their friends’ families.”

Walla Walla Catholic Charities director Tim Meliah said recent counts show nearly 50 homeless youth in Walla Walla, and about half don’t have any adults caring of them.

"It's our youth, here in our community,” Meliah said. “It's not just an entity or number from over there. It's people we see on the streets, who we interact with on a day-to-day basis.“

Family conflict, addiction, or abuse and neglect-- Meliah said there are lots of reasons underage minors wind up on the street.

And soon Walla Walla and it's surrounding areas will have somewhere safe for them to go.

He said by the end of summer, the Loft, a shelter for homeless youth, will have six beds and a lot of help for kids finding themselves in a rough spot.

"Youth are at a time in their lives where they're very vulnerable,” Meliah said. “We want to make sure that we're helping them to meet their potential."

Coffey said the Loft will be more than just a safe place to stay.

Once checked in, residents will have help finding a permanent place to stay, and a hand up to help them succeed.

"It would be a disservice not to offer this to them in our community and help them develop, and kind of be that support system for them,” Coffey said.

She said she hopes the Loft will become an epicenter of healing for young people experiencing trauma in the area.

A place they can turn to find the resources they need to grow.

No matter the young person’s background.

"Our goal is to be a place that's open and accepting of everyone in any situation,” Coffey emphasized. “Respecting the dignity of every young person that walks through our door, and doing what we can to be relentless advocates for them."

Organizers told Action News almost half of the new $2 million facility was paid for by donations from the community.

Meliah said they’re still in need of clothes and other day-to-day items for the youth staying there.

To contact or request more information about how you can help the Loft, visit Catholic Charities Walla Walla.

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