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Fort Smith group raising money for new youth shelter – Entertainment & Life – Charleston Express

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For some space youngsters and youngsters, Comprehensive Juvenile Services is their final hope earlier than they succumb to a life on the streets.

Those phrases have been spoken by John L. Furness, government director for Comprehensive Juvenile Services. Furness’ group provides quite a lot of providers comparable to an emergency shelter, mentoring packages, case administration and counseling for youngsters ages 10-17. Children who proceed to expertise difficulties with households within the residence, in addition to hassle at college and, in some instances, problems stemming from the juvenile courtroom system, can profit from these providers, Furness stated.

“Our services are important for these children,” he stated. “We work to help these children work through their difficulties.”

One of Comprehensive Juvenile Service’s newest tasks includes a marketing campaign to boost money for the development of a new, 7,784-square-foot Western Arkansas Youth Shelter. The shelter, which has been designed by Studio 6 Architects to deal with eight boys and eight women, can be constructed on a two-acre space on Wells Lake Road at Chaffee Crossing and will probably be a “much-needed” facility, Furness stated.

“We currently lease a building for our shelter in Cecil, and even though it’s only $1 a year from the county judge’s association, it’s an aging, 84-year-old building that needs repairs and renovation,” he stated. “The (current) shelter also is 45 miles from Fort Smith, so we need to have a new shelter close to Fort Smith, which will make it easier for the children to have visitation with their families and to have appointments with counselors, case-management officials and, if necessary, representatives from the juvenile court system.”

To date, the group and its supporters have raised greater than $440,000, which is about one-third of the projected $1.578 million prices, Furness stated.

“We’ve had some great larger donations for this, but most of the donations have been from individuals and companies — smaller donations like $25, $50 and $100,” he stated. “It’s been great having that support from people, businesses and local foundations who support youth and building programs.”

The majority of youngsters and youngsters receiving assist from Comprehensive Juvenile Services are from the Fort Smith/Van Buren/Alma/Greenwood area, thus growing the necessity for a shelter to be situated close to or in Fort Smith, Furness stated. The new facility additionally will probably be extra power environment friendly than the exiting constructing in Cecil, he stated.

“A stay in the shelter could be for one night or it could be up to 60 days, but it’s not a long-term shelter; the average stay is less than 30 days,” Furness stated. “Our goal is to reunite the children with their families.”

Children who keep within the shelter shall be referred to Comprehensive Juvenile Services by households, faculty officers and/or representatives from the juvenile justice system, he stated. 

“Ninety-seven percent of our kids return home, and they will have counseling and case management from our outreach staff to help them with the transition,” Furness stated. “The helps with the success and the outcome of the family reunion.”

One of the advantages of the new Western Arkansas Youth Shelter might be how the power and employees will assist “stabilize” a toddler’s feelings throughout his or her time in want, he stated.

“The No. 1 reason for a child’s need for a shelter is family dysfunction, which occurs normally when a youth isn’t obeying the rules at home,” Furness stated. “It also can be from parents being stressed about income and employment, and some of those parents haven’t utilized parenting skills effectively yet.”

Peer strain to skip faculty and/or interact in criminality additionally has induced some youngsters to hunt assist from Comprehensive Juvenile Services, he stated.

“Our services help about 1,000 kids a year, and you’d think it’s probably more boys than girls,” Furness stated. “But when you look at the youth shelter statistics, we typically have more girls referred to the shelter.”

For Furness, one of the rewarding points of main Comprehensive Juvenile Services stems from a thick folder he retains in his workplace. The folder is full of copies of hand-written letters from the youngsters to the group’s employees. 

“This letter is one of my favorites,” Furness stated. “The letter reads, ‘Staff, I’m going to miss you all. Thank you guys for making my stay here very welcoming. Hope to see ya’ll soon. Just not here!'”

Furness then smiled.

“To me, these letters are just wonderful,” he stated earlier than smiling once more. “For a few of these youngsters, the shelter is the final place they go earlier than they head to the streets. We need to cease these youngsters from going to the streets.

“In the streets, these youngsters will fall prey to pedophiles, to gang affiliation and different dangerous conditions,” Furness added. “We should cease that. We have to save lots of these youngsters and get them reunited with their household.”



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