Our Voice: My Friends Place teen homeless shelter needs help to fulfill vital mission

May 14, 2013 

Good programs don't always find solid funding in their formative years.

Sometimes a need seems so great, folks get a program up and running with a little start-up money and the best intentions of establishing a permanent source of money down the road.

They often find that it isn't as easy to sustain a new program as it is to start one, and sometimes valuable resources are lost to our community because the money to keep them going isn't available.

We sure don't want to see that happen with My Friends Place, a shelter in Kennewick for youth ages 13 to 17. No similar program for homeless youth exists in the Mid-Columbia.

Few situations in life are as desolate as that of a teenager who ends up without a home. Just being a teen is a time of great change and challenge and drama. Some kids make poor choices and their parents give them an ultimatum. Shape up or get out. We've all known teens who have chosen the latter, even if only for a few hours or a night.

Then there are the teens who just drew a bad lot in the parent department. Not all adults make great parents. Some are damaging beyond repair, and it's in the teen's best interest to get out of the home before more harm is done.

Whatever circumstances lead teens to My Friends Place, the shelter is there to lend a warm meal and a safe place to stay. The shelter can house up to 16 teens per night. The headcount usually ranges from three to eight each night.

The annual budget is about $150,000, and the shelter is operated by the nonprofit Safe Harbor Support Center in Kennewick.

Even if only one kid stayed there per night, we'd say the investment is worth it. Safe Harbor is using revenue from classes it offers and its thrift store to keep My Friends Place open. Some board members also have made donations.

Money is tight. Two grants from Benton County have expired, and the shelter's leaders are looking for new grants from a range of sources though none have been found, yet.

Despite the financial challenges, board members remain optimistic.

Such is often the nature of those who do good works in our community.

Unfortunately, we've seen programs with a proven need shuttered in the Mid-Columbia, either because fundraising efforts failed or state budget cuts eliminated revenue sources.

We are lucky to live in a community that has an enormous capacity for giving. We see the results every day. It also seems like every day there is another deserving need. My Friends Place is trying to raise $50,000 in the short term.

We're calling on the community to step up once again and put My Friends Place on solid financial ground. The mission seems like a great fit for a service club to partner with. Mentors also could be part of the mix, as could volunteers to help staff the shelter overnight and provide some budget relief.

Or maybe there's a corporate or individual benefactor out there who could put a three or five-year donation together and give the fledgling shelter, open since the fall of 2011, some breathing room as it finds its way to long-term stability. Measurable goals ought to be a requirement of any significant donation.

A successful community depends on the success of its children. It takes a village to raise them in some cases. Providing a safe environment for teens when they need it is a worthy enterprise, and one we hope finds additional support.

Find more information online at tinyurl.com/MyFriendsPlace.

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