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Youth shelter keeps homeless kids warm

Posted: December 23, 2012 - 1:08am

FAIRBANKS — Social welfare groups spent part of the summer urging the nonprofit organization Fairbanks Youth Advocates to plan for Fairbanks’ frigid winter, and the low-key result is a homeless shelter that houses teenagers overnight.

From 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily, four or five teens get a place to sleep, winter gear, personal hygiene supplies and snacks.

They also get transportation to local schools, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

“It’s cold out there,” said Jeff Cimmerman, the director of Fairbanks Counseling and Adoption’s Street Outreach Advocacy Program. “It’s nice to know they have a warm place to sleep.”

The program will ramp up its outreach efforts in January, including putting signs in buses and other areas where homeless youths gather.

Cimmerman said the need for such a facility is clear. His organization provides hot meals and an indoor area for as many as 40 kids from 2-6 p.m. each day, but there were few good overnight options until the FYA facility opened, he said.

On Saturday, for instance, the wind chill in Fairbanks was 50 degrees below zero.

The FYA shelter houses youths ages 13-17.

Youths outside that age range are considered on a case-by-case basis. No alcohol, drugs or weapons are allowed, but teens are allowed to enter with no questions asked.

The shelter has three staff members funded by the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. but most of the work is done by volunteers.

Some teens previously have stayed in the Fairbanks Rescue Mission, but there’s limited space for them among the adults who are the primary residents.

Others hop from couch to couch, spend the nights in 24-hour stores or simply walk through the nights, said FYA director Marylee Bates.

Bates said the facility is seeking state licensing, which would allow the shelter to provide case management for teens and offer hot meals to kids who stay there.

Although FYA is a faith-based organization, the shelter isn’t there to proselytize to kids, Bates said.

“We’re just feeling really grateful to the community,” she said.

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