New home provides shelter for homeless teens

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JEFFERSON CITY — HALO, an organization that focuses on housing homeless children and teens, recently opened a new home in Jefferson City.

The new home can provide shelter for up to 48 teenagers, ages 16–21. Rebecca Welsh, founder and CEO of HALO, said the organization had been able to house only five girls before the home opened.

“That’s kind of why this is such a big deal for us because it makes it feel more like a home and more like a family, and we’re able to just spend more time with them,” Welsh said.

HALO currently only provides housing for girls, but Welsh said there are plans to help boys, as well. The girls are able to stay at the home for up to two years.

HALO not only provides shelter, but also provides guidance and teaches basic life skills. “But more than that, we provide them the love and support of a family, which is what really helps them become contributive members of our community, and be able to turn their lives around,” Welsh said.

Welsh founded HALO after having children beg her for water while on a trip to Honduras. The organization is international, with 20 programs all over the world.

HALO arrived to the Jefferson City area about seven years ago, and started implementing programs into schools and the community. Welsh said it was through these programs and research that the organization recognized the need for a home.

The organization identified 135 homeless youth in Jefferson City. Lauren Bateman, lead residential supervisor, began working with HALO about two years ago. She said there aren’t any resources for homeless teenagers in the area.

“If someone is 17 and finds themselves homeless, they don’t have any other options,” she said.

Bateman said the new home is “incredibly” important. “It has opened up opportunities that at least I never even dreamed of. With the thought of 24 rooms to fill, it’s just a huge opportunity for kids who need us.”

Before the new home, HALO housed girls in separate apartments. Welsh said one issue with this was security.

“Our vision for this home is that it will be a model for other domestic housing programs that are just like this,” Welsh said. The grand opening of the home is March 3, 2017.