GOSHEN — A homeless shelter for Elkhart County teens is in the works.
Bashor Children’s Home CEO and President Don Phillips announced Monday that the child welfare agency wants to provide a shelter for homeless teens as early as January. To meet that goal financial support from the community is being sought.
Phillips said that with increased awareness of the plight of homeless teens in the county, Bashor Homes staff has been working behind the scenes to secure state licensing and begin a feasibility study for a shelter. John Shafer, founder of Chicago/Michiana Five for the Homeless has been publicly lobbying for a safe place for teens to go besides the streets.
The two joined together Monday to make the announcement and to appeal to the community to help support their efforts by donating to the proposed teen shelter. Phillips said with the conversations he’s had, the donations already received and the support from the state he feels confident enough to make the announcement and to state they want to open the shelter by January.
Phillips said an empty building on Bashor Homes’ campus along C.R. 15 just west of Goshen’s city limits, would be renovated for this purpose and he expects they’ll be able to house 100 to 150 teens annually. Phillips said $80,000 to $100,000 needs to be raised between now and January to get the project off the ground.
Phillips also spoke to the fact that Bashor once had such a shelter and couldn’t sustain it. He said the daily payment support they expect from the state will sustain the new shelter once it opens. After the meeting he clarified that even though the shelter would be open to all teens, Bashor would receive a portion of the cost to house and feed each teen referred by the courts from the state and that amount would help offset the cost to operate the shelter.
Because of Bashor Home’s affiliations with other organizations that work with teens, Phillips feels they will be able to identify homeless teens who may be apprehensive about asking for help.
“Our goal is to be child-centered. We have a caring staff of people who extend themselves way beyond what is necessary for the kid we have here — that’s what distinguishes us from everybody else,” Phillips said.
He said if called, the Bashor staff would pick up the teens to take them to the shelter, and in fact he said if there’s a teen in need now they should “call today” and they’d find a way to help them.
Shafer said after the press conference, “We are encouraged and very delighted that Bashor Home has come forward to meet this need. Now we need the community to support these efforts so that teens can finally have a safe alternative to getting off the streets.”
Wendy Bentley, a former homeless teen herself and a former resident at Bashor Homes, is confident that teens will turn to Bashor’s shelter for help.
“I do think they will because it’s structured differently. They’re saying ‘how can I help you?’ Wendy said. “The staff here is awesome and they help make a difference. They made a big difference in my life.”
Bentley now works with Chicago/Michiana Five for the Homeless.
Those wishing to donate to the teen shelter can do so by visiting www.bashor.org or calling 574-875-5117.