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Laguna Beach : Youth Shelter to Mark Moving to New Facility

Community leaders, officials and parents are expected to be on hand Thursday afternoon when the Youth Shelter in Laguna Beach hosts an open house and “symbolic ground breaking” to celebrate moving to new quarters.

Although it has been nearly a year since the shelter moved from the rented facility it occupied for four years on St. Anne Street to newer, roomier quarters at 980 Catalina Street, Barbara Dykes, its director, said the celebration was delayed because it has taken all that time to get the shelter ready for visitors.

The new facility, she said, is two blocks from the beach in “a charming old two-story house,” purchased last year for $250,000. The shelter, which can house up to six youths at a time, comes complete with three bedrooms and a basement.

Because the facility is licensed to care for children, building and fire codes have required the Community Service Programs, the private nonprofit agency running the shelter, to upgrade the house, including replacing the roof, renovating the basement and erecting an outside staircase. Much of the labor and materials needed to do the work have been donated by builders, building materials suppliers and other groups, Dykes said, estimating that the donated materials alone total “easily $20,000.”

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Youths between the ages of 11 and 17 are housed at the shelter. Although it deals primarily with those who have discipline problems, such as truancy, the shelter also houses child abuse victims, Dykes said. Referrals come from school officials, law enforcement agencies and social workers, she said.

The average stay at the shelter is about 10 days, enough time for parents and children to work out their problems with the help of the shelter’s counselors, Dykes said. Abused children are often placed in foster homes after their stay there.

At the open house, the shelter plans to honor corporate and individual contributors. A fund-raising drive that began last July has raised about $80,000 so far, Dykes said.

However, the ongoing renovation, which is expected to continue for another three or four months, and the burden of paying for the shelter make an ongoing fund drive a necessity. “We still have a mortgage to pay off, so there is still a great need,” Dykes said.

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