Homeless teen finds shelter at Hearts With a Mission

Hearts With a Mission, a new temporary shelter for homeless youth in Medford, served its first client this week, a 17-year-old boy.

"One of the first things he said was that he was really cold and he had not slept for four days," said Kevin Lamson, shelter director. "He's been walking the streets."

Officially opened for business on Dec. 21, the nonprofit at 521 Edwards St., provides temporary emergency housing for youth age 10 to 17 for 72 hours. Housing can be extended to 120 days with written parental consent.

The teen, who lives in the area, was referred to the shelter through the Maslow Project, a Medford outreach center for homeless youths.

According to the Oregon Department of Education, Medford has 1,126 youths between kindergarten and 12th grade who don't have a permanent night residence. An additional 200 or more have fallen out of the school system and are in need of assistance.

Hearts With a Mission's first teen with a need arrived at about 6 p.m. Tuesday and took a tour of the shelter that has been completely remodeled into three separate quadrants, consisting of nine bedrooms and 17 beds, he said.

Shelter staff checked with police to see whether the boy had any outstanding warrants or was listed as a runaway, said Lamson.

After everything checked out, the teen enjoyed a hot meal, a shower, and a good night's sleep in a warm bed. Wednesday morning, Lamson cooked the boy breakfast — bacon, eggs and pancakes.

"Over the next 72 hours we'll be working on getting written parental permission to have the boy stay beyond the three-day limit to determine what's best for the youth and the family," he said. "We'll develop a service plan for the boy, and the parents. The ultimate goal is to have the kids reunited back to their own family, if possible."

The intention is to not duplicate services, but fill a gap in the community. Youth will have individual case management and access to services that can help them re-establish family ties or receive other appropriate housing, he said.

"We've been talking about problems for so long," said Lamson. "It's just nice to talk about solutions and see them come to fruition."

— Sanne Specht

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