Youth Services Open A New Center For Homeless Youth
TULSA, Oklahoma - Experts say Tulsa has a mostly unnoticed, yet staggering "invisible population" of homeless teenagers.
Many just wander the streets, not knowing where they're going to stay or when they'll get their next meal.
With the poor economy, Youth Services in Tulsa estimates the number of homeless teens has grown 20% in the last couple of years.
But they now have a new place to seek help.
For a year and a half, Eric Coffey's been homeless and trying to get his life on track.
Now, in Tulsa there's a new facility that can help homeless teens.
"It's a place of hope. It's a place of new beginnings," said Eric Coffey. "It's a place of faith that's not re-broken, it's a place of change."
That place of hope and change is the result of a $1.5 million "Defeat the Streets" campaign, to open a Youth Services drop-in center for homeless teens.
They reached the goal of the campaign: Taking an old cluttered warehouse and giving it new life.
"We've opened the doors to let the young people of Tulsa, living on the streets or in abandoned buildings or in old cars, to have a place to come where they feel safe," said Jim Walker, Executive Director of Youth Services.
The facility on 3rd Street is now a nice, safe place where homeless young people like Coffey can get help.
"And to really connect with people my age," Coffey said.
It includes a laundry room, showers, a dining room and an entertainment area.
There's also a clothes closet, and rooms for counseling and job and life skills training.
"We have watched as they've struggled to make it through another day or night alone-- and often scared," Walker said.
Youth Services estimates there are between 1,000 and 1,500 homeless teens living on the streets in Tulsa who need a safe place to go.
"It pains me to see that there is people out there that don't know a place like this exists and there is hope for people like me," Coffey said.
He said is grateful for the new facility called "The Station." It's a place to get back on track, and most of all know there are others who care.
"There should be a beautiful place where they can go to get their lives together," Walker said.