Gulf Bend readies to open temporary housing for homeless, runaway youth

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

March 14, 2012 at 6:05 p.m.
Updated March 13, 2012 at 10:14 p.m.

Gulf Bend Center is looking for ways to reunite families through a new facility opening Thursday.

The Basic Center, made possible through a grant and local funds, offers a 13-bed facility that temporarily houses homeless and runaway youth in the Crossroads, said Don Polzin, Gulf Bend's executive director.

"There is no question about the investment of children and the importance of that," Polzin said.

The center will have its official public grand opening from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday at 208 Marilyn Drive in Victoria.

The center plans to work with about 100 runaway and homeless youth over the course of a year, said Keith Rucker, lead case manager with the center.

"It's about reunification, that's the goal," Rucker said. "The goal is to get these kids off the streets and get them back into their family's homes."

However, this isn't the first time the Crossroads has seen a Basic Center.

From 2002 to 2008, Crossroads Youth and Family Services, which merged with Gulf Bend, had a Basic Center, Rucker said.

The facility is even at the same location, but with a $50,000 facelift.

Rucker, who has been involved with the Victoria Area Homeless Coalition since 1986, said he understands the importance of tending to these youths' needs.

When the first Basic Center was open for those six years, the center saw 652 kids and had a 95 percent success rate of reunifying them with their families, Rucker said.

The Victoria school district alone has more than 800 homeless youth, Rucker said.

Homeless has two definitions, Rucker said. It can mean a person is couch surfing or a person is doubling up by living with other family members or friends.

Rucker is confident this will happen again.

The 3,000 square-foot facility has a home-like atmosphere and does more than just reunite families.

The facility also offers transportation for kids to school.

Rucker and other staff will provide a family-type environment through family dinners and chatter.

"It's an intervention program," Rucker said. "We're here to serve the kids."

Typically the center offers a 21-day stay, but staff will not turn away youth if reunification has not been met, Rucker said.

A center like this is extremely important to the Crossroads, Polzin said.

"This is all connected to the health and welfare of our community," Polzin said. "These kids, if we can support them to achieve, then they are going to become responsible adults."



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