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Homeless Youth Shelter Opens Doors

Whittney Evans
Rob Wesemann, VOA director of homeless services tours the new VOA Youth Resource Center

Young people who spend their days and nights on the streets, now have a place to go in Salt Lake City for a hot meal, a good night’s sleep and other services to get them on their feet. Volunteers of America opened the doors Tuesday to the new Homeless Youth Resource Center.

The new two-story, light-filled modern space is a world away from the cramped, dingy building where the old Youth Resource Center still stands on State Street. But the new building on roughly 900 south and 400 west is not only shiny and spacious, it’s open 24-hours-a-day seven- days-a-week. That’s huge, says VOA Director of Homeless Services, Rob Wesemann.

“The hardest part of the facility we have now is that at 4:45 everybody has to leave and we don’t know what happens to people,” Wesemann says.

Services are form homeless youth age 15-22. The shelter sleeps up to 30 people, but during the day, many more can access regular meals, clothes, laundry facilities and showers. They can also get legal help, apply for jobs or complete their GED’s. Wesemann says there’s a lot of space to relax and just be, but staff are always on hand to keep people connected.

“We want to know, hey what’s going on?” Wesemann says. “How can we help? We want to poke them a little bit. How can we motivate you? Because we don’t want to be, hey stay in the shelter until you’re 22 and then see you later.”

VOA Client Mathew Wools aged out of the foster system in Texas before moving to Utah. He’s now enrolled in Salt Lake Community College.  

“Not too long ago, I got to come in and see it while they were in the process of building it,” Wools says. “But seeing it fully functioning, up and running, it’s amazing.”

The VOA Youth Resource Center cost $6 million. It was paid for mostly by donations.

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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