A place where boys don’t have to act tough
New shelter for teenage homeless boys to open in Prescott Valley
One day while Tim Vree was working with a homeless family, he noticed the look of shame on a young girl’s face when her parents came in seeking services. That began his transition from working about 10 years with homeless adults to helping teens, even though the process took a year.
“This girl experienced homelessness through no fault of her own, yet she felt so much shame. That’s what drives me to give them the best I can,” Vree, project coordinator for The Lighthouse, said Monday after a tour of what will soon be a teen shelter serving as many as five boys.
The house is centrally located with both Bradshaw Mountain High School west and east campus — which contains the alternative program — within a mile or so. It stands empty for now, but soon will have house parents living in the master bedroom, a bunkbed in one bedroom and a twin bed and bunkbed in the other. A snow-covered patio out back leads to a garden area.
The shelter is meant for short-term stays before more permanent living arrangements can be found, whether that is returning home, to a family member, or other stable housing situation. Typically their stay is no more than 21 days.
While there, the residents attend school or GED classes. They will receive life skills training in meal preparations, cooking, setting up a bank account, budget and money management. Vree also will teach a course on sexual risk avoidance.
The shelter is named The Lighthouse, appropriate for a place that is a beacon in the dark for these kids, Vree said.
“They think they know it all, but they are scared inside,” he said. “Here they don’t have to act tough or put on their survival front.”
Once they know they are safe, warm, fed and clothed, the teens can think about finishing school, going to college, or entering the work force. Vree wants the teens to leave with more skills and opportunities than what they came in with, he said.
“We don’t want them to have to go through shelters as adults. We want them to stay here, love where they live, and be productive,” he said.
Kelly Tanner, director of Homeless Youth Services for Arizona Youth Partnership (AYP), successfully wrote and received a federal grant through the Family Youth Services Bureau to open The Lighthouse. She wrote a grant in 2011 to open a shelter for boys in Kingman, and again in 2015 for a shelter for girls in Bullhead City.
Looking to expand, she found Prescott Valley had a basic need for youth services. Two previous shelters closed several years ago, Turning Point in Prescott and CODAC home in Prescott Valley.
The Lighthouse accepts homeless and runaway boys ages 12 to 17. As a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization, donations are tax deductible and meet the requirements for Arizona Tax Credit contribution.
Vree said the home is accepting donations for sturdy bunkbeds, nightstands, bookshelves, living room furniture (couch, coffee and end tables), floor lamps, washer/dryer, DVD player and G or PG-13 rated movies, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, paper towels, lock boxes, alarm clock radios, toiletries, and new socks and underwear.
A troubled youth himself, Vree attended seven high schools, “which didn’t benefit me whatsoever.” His philosophy in transforming the house into a home is to provide a sense of humanity and quality care to its residents.
He has received an overwhelming response from the community after posting the Needs List on the Coalition for Compassion and Justice website. He expects to be on-call for the remainder of February answering the phone and receiving or picking up donations.
The boys need to feel good about themselves, he said. It becomes a crisis for teens when they don’t have decent clothes to wear. Vree said he may not supply name brand expensive clothing, but he will help find something nice. The shelter accepts gift cards from Walmart, Ross, and other local stores.
The Resource Center through Humboldt Unified School District also provides school supplies and clothing for all ages and sizes. And a recent coat drive by MI Windows and Doors brought in 400 brand new coats to the center, to which the boys will have access.
For more information, to volunteer or contribute, call Tim Vree at 480-560-6545 or email TimV@azyp.org.
Currently there is no shelter dedicated for girls; sometimes they are referred to Prescott Area Shelter Services, organizers said.