Linda and Gary Casady spent four long years looking for a house they could turn into the Youth Empowerment Shelter.
Late last year they finally found it and signed a one-year lease on Jan. 1.
The 3,208-square-foot, five-bedroom, three-bathroom home is located at 514 East 9th Street in The Dalles and big enough to house 10 kids.
“This came on the market at 8 o’clock one morning and we were here at 9 o’clock and made the offer then,” Linda said. “It was priced very well. We thought if we waited until the afternoon it would be gone.”
All that remains is getting licensed and hiring a staff.
The shelter has one paid counselor, Jensie Bryan, but needs two full-time house parents, two night supervisors, two personal advisors and a part-time outreach coordinator.
YES received a $20,000 grant from The Dalles City Council last July and hopes to receive more funding this coming fiscal year.
“The city has been a great supporter and they came back to us, the city council, and said apply again and we’ll have a grant for you,” Linda said. “Three counselors said keep working on this. We’ll advocate for you. We feel real supported by them.”
The project has also received small donations from the community and with the lease paid for a year, has about $40,000 in the bank but needs $60,000 to operate.
YES is waiting to hear back from four different grants.
“The bigger funders like Ford Family Foundation that give $100,000 or $200,000, they want to see the community buy in first and they will donate after,” Linda said. “That’s pretty common so we really need to get that community support. We’ve had several funders tell us they will consider us after we’ve been in operation for two years or more.”
YES would provide housing, three meals a day, mediation, life skills training, educational assistance and community to the 300-400 homeless youth ages 10-17 in six counties—Wasco, Hood River, Sherman, Gilliam, Klickitat and Skamania.
“Those are the ones that are considered unsheltered, in a car or under a bridge,” Gary said. “Those are not the couch surfers.”
Gary and Linda have seen and felt the need for a shelter while volunteering at The Dalles High School, as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and at The Next Door.
“There is a youth shelter in every part of the state but this one, so we visited five different ones around the state to see how to do it and what should be here that isn’t here,” Linda said. “Eventually we’ll make ourselves available to all of them [six counties]. I talked to the schools. They are very anxious to have something because they have kids that they don’t know how they can help them. If White Salmon calls us and says there’s a kid here, we’ll be available to that.”
The plan is for runaway youth to stay at the shelter from one day to five months.
“Our intention is to be a short-term provision, not a long-term treatment,” Linda said.
“Though we will do a follow up,” Gary added.
“If a kid comes to the door and says I need a place for the night, we’ll try to accommodate,” Gary said. “We’re planning on one room that will be an emergency room that helps them but keeps them away from the regular population until we can assess.”
YES will also work with different agencies to be prepared when a youth shows up at their door who is intoxicated, aggressive or suicidal.
Gary is executive director of the Youth Empowerment Shelter. Linda serves as secretary of the board of directors with President Livia Christenson, Vice President Dick Kessler, Treasurer Doug Quisenberry, members Bill Marick, Ted Pitt, and Teddy Evans and youth representatives Elizabeth Compos-Blas and Annabeth Pickett.
Linda noted the board is always looking for volunteers, especially business people.
“All the people on the board are service-oriented and we’re good at thinking about what to do, but how to manage finances and make plans and spend money and all that, we could really use some insight,” Linda said.
An open house for the shelter is scheduled on March 18.
To donate, visit yeshelter.org.