A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Homeward Bound Shelter a safe (and only) haven for homeless teens; Mardi Gras fundraiser is March 5

By Maridith Yahl
NKyTribune reporter

At 13-15 East 20th Street in Covington, you will find a 100-year-old three-story brick building on the National Historic Register. This building is significant, not because of its rich history but because of what takes place there today.

Brighton Center Homeward Bound Shelter is a safe haven for teens ages 11-17 who are runaways or homeless.

The only shelter in Northern Kentucky for teens, the shelter is always open to provide a safe and caring environment, to protect youth from abuse and neglect and to improve quality of life.

Teens are an extremely vulnerable population. Being without a safe and secure life leads to high-risk activities and/or situations such as drug abuse, sexual abuse, and human trafficking.

It is rare for teens to be living on the street but according to Kate Arthur, Community & Youth Services Director, vulnerable teens “are one argument away from being homeless.”

Youth who run away from family situations usually stay at a friend’s house, which is unstable. Kate recalls a recent incident where a friend was housing a friend for several weeks unbeknownst to his parents. The teen would sneak the other in after the family went to bed and left before they woke up. With the colder weather, the runaway began coming in earlier and that is how the teen was found.

The mom then brought the teen to Homeward Bound Shelter. This incident ended with the child being placed in foster care. The primary goal is to reunite the family when that is an option. The shelter provides a wide range of services, including family counseling to make this happen.

Homeward Bound is looking for the best next step.

Since 1983 Homeward Bound Shelter has been helping teens. Last year 370 homeless and runaway youth received crisis services and 84 were served residentially. Residents can come from anywhere.

The shelter has served teens from all over the country including California, Florida, and Indiana. In another recent event, a runaway teen from another state tried to attend school. Since they didn’t have a guardian the teen was sent to Homeward Bound.

The shelter, which is part of the National Safe Place, contacted the national network and was able to facilitate a reunion with the mother. The shelter arranged for transportation home and contacted services back in the teen’s hometown that began upon her return to restore a healthy family relationship.

The shelter provides a home environment. Residents and staff eat together as a family and talk about their day. There are a variety of activities that the average house has for the residents to engage in including games and TV.

This life-changing institution is in need of the community’s help.

Funding has been slashed. Not only has their major funder, the United Way, seen a drastic drop in donations, but funding from every other source has been cut as well. Homeward Bound Shelter is one of 40 programs run by Brighton Center. Each program is required to be self-sufficient to continue operation.

Numbers tell the story for 2018

On March 5, the shelter will have its one and only fundraiser of the year, Mardi Gras. Funds from the event provide the food budget for the entire year. After this event and proceeds are counted, food menus, staffing, and all food preparation decisions are made.

Buying a ticket to attend, sponsoring a table, donating a new item for the Silent Auction are ways you can help.

It’s not always about money though. The shelter seeks any positive adult role model to come in and volunteer their time. One organization just threw a Christmas party for the residents. The teens loved it. It was a family atmosphere of fun they were not used to. Teens are welcome to come in and have a game night. A salon night of nails and hair would be a joy to the girls. Anything to engage the teens and make it a family atmosphere. If interested in volunteering call to set up an appointment and take a tour.

If you like shopping, the shelter has a wish list and gladly takes donations. They use a lot of laundry detergent and a surprising amount of dish towels. Other items needed include dryer sheets, general hygiene products, female hygiene products, storage totes, cleaning supplies, school supplies, XL twin sheet sets, pillows and pillowcases, and towels & washcloths.

Homeward Bound Shelter has more need now for the community to help the most vulnerable. Teens don’t have choices, they can’t make a livable income and can’t find housing. If you see a youth who needs help, tell them about Homeward Bound, that there is a safe place to get help. Or, notify Homeward Bound so they can approach them, don’t ignore them.

You can contact Homeward Bound Shelter directly, 24 hours a day at 859-581-1111.

Call if you would like to help by attending or donating to Mardi Gras, donating items, or volunteering your time.

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