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Myldred Jones, 96; Social Worker Founded Shelter in O.C. for Teenagers in Crisis

Times Staff Writer

Myldred Jones, a social worker who founded the Casa Youth Shelter in Los Alamitos and helped launch several other nonprofit organizations for teens in crisis, has died. She was 96.

A retired Navy lieutenant commander, Jones died June 19 at the Los Alamitos home of her niece, Linda Anderson. The cause of death was given as complications from a recent fall.

In 1978, with more than 30 years’ experience in her field, Jones -- then 69 and still working -- sold her Los Alamitos condominium and used the money to buy two side-by-side lots and create the Casa Youth Shelter. It had room for six residents and has since been enlarged to house up to 12.

The idea for the shelter came to her when she was counseling teens who called her on the hotline for runaway adolescents that she helped found at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, among the first of its kind in the state.

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Many callers asked Jones if she knew a place where they could stay. A number of them had run away from abusive parents and said it was not safe to go home.

“The first goal is to get them off the street, the second is to reunite them with their parents,” Jones said of Casa’s residents in a 1994 interview with “CBS This Morning.”

More than 75% of the young people who stay at the shelter eventually reconcile with their families. The daily program includes private and group therapy sessions.

“The basic problem with young people today is the lack of true communication with their families,” Jones said in a 2001 interview with the Los Angeles Times.

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Her advice to parents was always the same.

“Stop whatever you’re doing and listen ... to what that teenager is talking to you about,” she told “CBS This Morning.”

“Don’t just give advice. Let him discover what’s in himself so that he can begin to lead his own life.”

In 1991 Jones launched We Care, two doors away from the shelter in West Orange County, to assist the homeless. It was sponsored by churches and social service groups.

Born Aug. 5, 1909, in Philadelphia, Jones was the second child in a large family. Her father, a steelworker, moved the family to Pomona when Jones was 5.

At 7, she and her mother visited a girl they knew who had been sent to a Los Angeles juvenile care center to protect her from her violent father. All the windows at the center were covered with bars. Years later, Jones said that visit was the start of her career as a social worker helping young people.

She graduated from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, where she majored in social sciences and religious education. After graduation she returned to California, briefly taught high school and joined the Navy in 1942. She served in World War II and the Korean War during her 17 years in the military. In peacetime she became the assistant director of the Navy’s welfare department. She retired from military service in 1959.

Jones returned to social work in Los Angeles and became actively involved in social issues, marching for civil rights in Alabama and later for the United Farm Workers in California.

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Gov. Ronald Reagan appointed Jones to the California Council of Children and Youth. Her job was to travel the state, talking to young people about what was on their minds.

Mostly she listened to them, she later said. From that experience, she started the hotline at Childrens Hospital, which became a model for similar programs across the country.

She was often honored for her humanitarian contributions, including recognition by Pope John XXIII and five U.S. presidents.

In addition to her niece, Jones is survived by her sister, Ruth Baird, and nephew, Dick Baird.

A memorial Mass is planned for 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Hedwig Catholic Church, 11482 Los Alamitos Blvd., Los Alamitos, Calif., to be followed by a reception.

Contributions in her name can be made to Casa Youth Shelter, 10911 Reagan St., Los Alamitos, CA 90720.


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