- Associated Press - Friday, October 17, 2014

OGDEN, Utah (AP) - A Syracuse couple is working to open the state’s first overnight shelter for teens.

Right now, there are still floors to replace and furniture to buy, but community donations are helping make the shelter a reality.

“The phone’s ringing off the hook, but we still need help,” said Kristen Mitchell, co-owner of the Youth Futures shelter.

Mitchell and her life partner, Scott Cattucio, bought the former group home at 2760 Adams Ave. last July. That’s around the same time a new Utah law went into effect allowing shelters to house youths between ages 12 and 17 overnight.

“There was nobody that could help them because there was this law,” Mitchell said. “They could give them a tent and a sleeping bag, but they couldn’t stay open longer than eight hours.”

Under the new law, shelter workers and volunteers will still have to call a teen’s parents within the first eight hours. After 48 hours, they will have to notify the Utah Department of Child and Family Services but can still house youths afterward under certain conditions.

Before the law changed, it was illegal to harbor minors overnight. Support centers would have to call the police. That’s why many were just given a blanket and sent back out on the streets.

Mitchell has been working to open a youth help center for more than six years and says she learned of the challenges homeless youths face after trying to find resources for her own children.

“I found there was a lot of people, a lot of kids, families, who had it a lot worse than we did,” Mitchell said. “It was really hard for me to go to bed at night and know that there was kids sleeping on the streets, camping in the mountains.”

Cattucio’s interest in helping homeless youths comes partly because he was one himself, spending six months on his own.

“I had a lot of my own personal issues when I was a kid,” he said. “I was really self-destructive, sabotaging relationships, work situations.”

Cattucio said he hopes the Youth Futures shelter will help others choose a different path.

“I had 15 years of a rather difficult life,” he said. “If I could have dealt with some of those issues when I was younger, I wouldn’t have had to deal with that.”

The plan is to have 15 beds in this shelter by Jan. 1.

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Information from: Deseret News, https://www.deseretnews.com


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