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A New Center For Homeless Youth Opens In Dallas

An estimated 4,000 students in the Dallas Independent School District are considered homeless. On Tuesday, Dallas ISD and several non-profit groups marked the opening of the first phase of a homeless youth center. 

The Fannie C. Harris Youth Center is for teens and young adults ages 14 to 21 and will offer services including meals, access to showers, a computer lab and medical and mental health referrals.

The first phase of the youth center, located near Fair Park, will offer something many of these young people haven’t had: a regular place to go. The school district has partnered with CitySquare and Promise House.

The Dallas ISD students experiencing homelessless either can't afford housing or they can't go home because of family problems. Some live on the streets and others move around from place to place.

Jorge Baldor, the founder of After8toEducate, one of the groups leading the project, said meeting the needs of these young people is crucial.

“They’re making the effort — while living under a bridge or in a car — they’re washing up at the restrooms at the gas station,” Baldor said. “They’re facing all kinds of obstacles just for nutrition and for basic needs, and they’re still making that effort and attending schools.”

Last year, the Dallas school board approved opening the youth center at a former elementary school. The district and various non-profits are splitting the cost. 

In the spring, the center will open a residential wing with 35 beds for emergency shelter and transitional living. The beds will be for students who are living on the streets, such as under a bridge or in a car.

Baldor says the growing number of students identified as homeless is alarming.

“In a city like Dallas, for example, where we celebrate growth and new buildings that are going up ... I think we need to look not only down the street but maybe, you know, under bridges and see these faces that are there."

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.