Youth Center Hoped for in Bremerton

By Rachel Pritchett
rpritchett@kitsapsun.com
BREMERTON
Two Catholic groups hope to open a “youth connection center” in downtown Bremerton to help kids in crisis.
Before the facility could come online, some $1.3 million would have to be raised, licenses would have to be obtained and renovations would have to be made in the empty storefront at the Max Hale Center.
That could take a year and maybe longer, according to David Kucklick, service director for the Family Preservation Program of Bremerton. Family Preservation, a Catholic Community Services program, is pairing with Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington to try to make the center happen.
The center’s supporters say that it will offer a safe haven to young people suffering domestic abuse at home, who’ve been kicked out of foster care, who are living on the streets or who are suffering addictions.
Trained staff members would work with community social-service partners, and also with the person’s natural circle of support — extended family, teachers, coaches and pastors — to find a way to place the child into a safe family environment.
“It’s really that partnership that makes it work,” Kucklick said.
The space at the corner of Pacific Avenue and Fifth Street has been empty for years. Planners envision a complete interior redo.
When done, the 6,800 square feet of space would have 25 beds. The youngest visitors could stay a night or two, and visitors 18 and older could stay as long as 21 days, according to Denise Solada of Catholic Housing Services and program director for the Max Hale Center.
The concept already has the support of Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer.
Solada and Kucklick also hope to offer a mentoring program for the troubled youth, enlisting businesses to help them get on-the-job training.
Steve Rice of Rice Fergus Miller Architecture and Planning said he hopes that his company will offer the young people opportunities to learn basic work skills and forge new relationships with adults working in professional settings.
“And at the same time build a little bit of a resume,” Rice added.
But others have concerns about the center, including Dave Frederick, founder of Coffee Oasis, a nearby Christian nonprofit group that has assisted young people in crisis for the past 12 years.
“It just doesn’t make sense financially,” he said, adding that he’s not certain there are enough young people in crisis to support such a large endeavor.
It might be better, Frederick said, for them to set up a much smaller shelter with beds and partner with Coffee Oasis, which is offering many of the same services. E-mails weighing in on the proposal are flying through the local social-service community.
Solada said she is aware that not everyone will support the center in downtown Bremerton, but added that “it is our responsibility to take care of our children.”
Kucklick suggested that there was a great need, especially among teen girls, the most vulnerable and easily exploited. Two similar centers closed last year due to lack of funding in Silverdale and Port Orchard.
Today, “there aren’t the paid programs you can put kids in anymore to the degree there was in the past,” Kucklick said.

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