Teen shelter seeking funds to stay open

Teen shelter seeking funds to stay open

Michele Ellson

For more than 14 years, Alameda Family Services has been providing shelter to homeless, runaway and “thrown away” teens in an eight-bed Victorian in Oakland. But the teens may soon find themselves with nowhere to go.

The owner of the home that houses the DreamCatcher emergency shelter has himself fallen on hard times and is preparing to sell it. So the nonprofit is scrambling to raise $100,000 over the next few weeks so that it can purchase the home and keep the shelter – the only one of its kind in Alameda County – up and running.

“He’s very much trying to work with DreamCatcher,” spokesman Sean Sullivan said of the home’s owner.

Alameda Family Services’ efforts to help homeless teens started out with host homes, and the agency moved on to provide shelter in a church basement as a partnership with a second nonprofit agency before moving into the Oakland home, in 1999. In addition to helping homeless teens, the nonprofit also provides Head Start services, school base health programs and counseling.

In addition to a warm bed, the co-ed shelter – named after the Native American dreamcatcher, which captures bad dreams but allows the good ones to pass – provides youths aged 14 to 18 with meals, laundry, counseling, a health clinic and a long list of additional services. It also offers a drop-in center where teens can hang out, eat and find support.

The shelter can serve youths for up to 21 days, during which they work out a plan to house them more permanently.

About 300 youths are estimated to be homeless or at risk of homelessness after their home situations become unsafe; three quarters of them leave home due to abuse or neglect.

Sullivan said a new shelter with six additional beds for sexually exploited girls is set to be renovated near the existing shelter; ground was broken on the project in May of 2013, but the renovations won’t be done soon.

The $100,000 would be a down payment that would allow the landlord to pay off creditors, buying Alameda Family Services more time to raise the rest of the money the nonprofit needs to purchase it. The agency kicked off its fundraising campaign a little over a week ago and has so far raised $12,000.

“We’re certainly in a better position than we were seven days ago,” Sullivan said Thursday.

Anyone interested in contributing can do so online, and the shelter’s backers are also asking people to spread the word through social media. Donations can also be sent directly to Alameda Family Services, 2325 Clement Avenue, Alameda, Calif. 94501.

The shelter also seeks volunteers to prepare meals, lead workshops and perform other duties. Anyone interested in helping out can e-mail shelter director Amba Johnson at ajohnson@alamedafs.org or call 629-6311.