America First Provides an 'Assist' to Homeless Shelter

OGDEN, Utah--America First Credit Union awarded Youth Futures Utah, a homeless shelter for youth, with $3,400 during the Weber State University basketball game. America First paid the organization $10 for each assist the Weber State University basketball team completed throughout the 2014 – 2015 season. With 340 assists, the donation amounted to $3,400 in total for the newly-opened youth homeless organization, located in Ogden, Utah.

Youth Futures Utah is a 501(c)3 organization committed to the well-being of the youth of Utah. The mission of Youth Futures Utah is to provide shelter, support, resources and guidance to homeless, unaccompanied and runaway youth in Utah. Youth Futures connects each youth with food, housing and resources to build the skills needed to support a healthy future.

Overnight Shelter for Teens Opening in Ogden

OGDEN, Utah--

One of the state's first overnight shelters for homeless teens is opening its doors in Ogden.

But it still needs a little help from the community to get the "Youth Futures Shelter" up and running.

The rooms are still empty and the floors need some care, but this old group home is just what Kristen Mitchell and her partner Scott have been looking for.

"When I found this place it was really like it had been sent to us, " said Kristen Mitchell, Executive Director of Youth Futures Shelter Home. 

After years of looking, the couple bought the old group home at 2760 Adams Avenue last July. That's about the same time a new law went into effect that allowed shelters to house teens overnight.

Before this new law, it was illegal to harbor teens overnight. That meant kids would either be turned over to the authorities after eight hours or sent back out on the streets.

"They can provide them a sleeping bag, a tent, food, clothing whatever resources they need and then they have to send them back out to sleep on the street," said Mitchell. 

Once the place is up and running the Youth Futures Shelter will have 15 beds where kids will be able to stay up to 20 days.

"We'll help them access resources in the community, we'll help them find placement, reunite with families," said Mitchell. 

There's a perception that homeless youth are runaways or criminals, but when Stephanie Hales was working with the Human Rights Campaign she found out a majority of them have actually been kicked out of their homes.

"The majority they figure between 40 to 60 percent are LGBT youth," said Hales. 

"A lot of times what happens to these youth is they get shunned by their families, their family kicks them out."

But now rather than living on the streets, in the mountains or underneath viaducts, these teens have a safe place to stay and some help to get back on their feet.

"I would really like to be that resource that place where if you're struggling, if the kids do get kicked out, if they're living on the streets, if they run away a place where they can come," said Mitchell. 

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Creating Second Chances

Kristen Mitchell, a senior at Weber State University who is majoring in social work, believes that all youth deserve a safe haven, an advocate and the opportunity to succeed. Through her nonprofit organization, Youth Futures, resources and guidance will be provided for homeless and runaway adolescents in Utah.

For Mitchell, Youth Futures has been a project six years in the making. Her own difficult childhood and experiences as a single mother have made her passionate about helping young people and given her an understanding of adolescents from both the parent and youth’s perspectives. In 2011, Mitchell started a support hotline for LGBTQ adolescents who were struggling with their families, but quickly discovered that she lacked the ability to actually improve their situations. “I had no resources to give them because I knew there were no youth shelters,” she said. “That was extremely frustrating.”

This experience ignited Mitchell’s desire to create a youth shelter, so she returned to school after a 20-year absence in order to gain the credentials to support and achieve her goal. She was then inspired by assistant social work professor Barrett Bonella, whose classes on social policy and community organization further motivated her to move forward with her Youth Futures project.

Mitchell recognizes Weber State as a community institution, where professors and students support each other. Through the collaboration of her Macro Social Work class, taught by Bonella, her vision became a reality.

“Almost the entire class mobilized to raise awareness, funds and in-kind donations for my nonprofit,” Mitchell said. “This has been one of the most important events that made this project possible.”

The students were organized into groups responsible for promoting the organization, collecting donations and obtaining help from outside resources. They received recognition from local news outlets and, according to Bonella, raised more than $250,000 in just one semester.

Bonella and Mitchell recently presented on Youth Futures at a Utah Campus Compact retreat in St. George, Utah. “The whole time we presented I felt like I was beaming with pride. I still feel it whenever I think of her and her work,” Bonella said. “This has been her project from the beginning, and I’ve just been lucky to be her teacher.”

The rigorous social work program has prepared Mitchell for her future in the community engagement field. After graduating in spring 2015, she plans to take a year off to get the first Youth Futures shelter home, which will be located in Ogden, up and running. Once the Ogden home is successfully set up, she will look at surrounding areas and determine whether or not more shelters are needed throughout the state. She intends to pursue a master’s degree in social work and eventually a doctorate in public health and administration.


Day of Giving Raises Thousands of Dollars for Northern Utah Non-Profits

A day dedicated for donations to Utah nonprofits raised $1.23 million on Thursday, March 31, impacting hundreds of nonprofits in the state and providing major boosts for several northern Utah charities.

Love UT Give UT was sponsored by The Community Foundation of Utah, which started the event last year. The premise is simple: get as many Utah-based 501(c)(3) organizations to participate, give them a simple webpage for online donations, help them campaign towards the event and watch live results as donations poured in Thursday.

The Community Foundation of Utah published the results immediately following the day of giving. The foundation worked with crowdfunding service Razoo to set up a streamlined web page directing donors to every participating nonprofit.

The Ogden Nature Center, a 152-acre preserve dedicated to environmental education, earned $6,935 from 140 unique donors, the 7th-highest amount of unique donors for any participating medium-sized nonprofit. The Community Foundation of Utah designated a medium-sized profit as one with an annual budget between $250,000 and $1 million.

However, those are only online donations through Love UT Give UT. Ogden Nature Center’s Executive Director Mary McKinley said a handful of private organizations agreed to make matching donations, so the actual amount the center achieved is about $14,000.

What will the donations be used for?

“It depends on the donation itself,” McKinley said. “Some of the donations were designated for specific projects, while others were just general donations. Those will support all of our operations.”

In all, McKinley said most of the money would go towards operations and overhead costs.

Weber State University also participated in the fun. The school netted $9,437 from 154 unique donors, pushing it into the top 10 for large nonprofits — those with annual budgets exceeding $1 million.

Youth Futures, a youth shelter in Ogden at 2760 Adams Ave., also received a sizeable chunk of cash. For the small nonprofit category — those with annual budgets between $100,000 and $250,000 — Youth Futures had the fifth-most unique donors at 163, earning a total of $9,115, including a $1,000 reward for its unique donor rank.

“I was expecting to raise about $8,000,” said Kristen Mitchell, the shelter’s executive director. “We doubled what we raised in last year’s event and more than doubled the number of our donors.”

Youth Futures began campaigning for the event almost a month in advance, mostly on Facebook but also through word of mouth. “We did a lot of email blast,” Mitchell said.

To add excitement to the day and create a way to incentivize donors and nonprofits, a rewards system was set up for each nonprofit category, letting potential and actual donors know how well their favorite nonprofits were doing in real-time.

In every category, a bonus $10,000 was given to the highest-ranked nonprofit, $5,000 for 2nd place, $3,000 for 3rd place, $2,000 for 4th place and $1,000 for 5th. Additional $250 prizes were given for nonprofits during “Power Hours” -- getting the most unique donors in a single hour.

Those rewards were made available by sponsors for The Community Foundation of Utah, according to its website.

“This really was significant for us,” Mitchell said. “This is really going to help us keep things going for awhile.”


Utah's First Privately Funded Homeless Shelter for Teens Opens its Doors in Ogden

OGDEN — Six years ago, when Kristen Mitchell started thinking about opening a temporary shelter for homeless and unaccompanied youths, she knew it was an enormous undertaking.

“For most of that time, it was such a big, crazy idea I didn’t dare talk about it,” she said.

But she was nagged by the knowledge that there was a desperate need for a youth shelter in northern Utah.

As a single mother, Mitchell had on occasion searched the streets for her eldest child during stormy periods in his youth.

Her life partner, Scott Catuccio, had been a homeless youth himself.

Then there were the telephone calls on the Pride Empathy Hotline that Mitchell launched in 2011. Nationally, some 40 percent of homeless youths identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

All things were pointing to the goal of opening a youth shelter, she said, though there were many hurdles to clear before achieving that end.

Mitchell had been a small-business owner for 20 years, including owning a gallery in Park City, but the economic downturn took a toll on her businesses.

So she decided it was a good time to go to college and pursue her dream.

"I didn't have a degree at all. I graduated in May with a degree in social work," she said.

The practical and academic knowledge Mitchell gained was instrumental in working through the long process to open Youth Futures shelter home. Her fellow students and professors at Weber State University have been some of her staunchest supporters.

Before she could do anything, the Utah Legislature would have to change state law to give the shelter the flexibility it needed to work with runaway or unaccompanied youths. That happened in 2014.

Under the amended state law, shelter workers and volunteers must still notify parents of their child's whereabouts. After 48 hours, they must notify the Utah Division of Child and Family Services.

Mitchell searched for a suitable location for a long time, finally finding a house in a residential neighborhood that once was a group home. The windows were broken and someone had booted in the door.

But with a little tender loving care and a lot of paint, Mitchell knew the house would work perfectly for Youth Future's needs. She and Catuccio closed on the purchase in August.

Since then, the shelter at 2760 Adams Ave. has been "a revolving door" of people offering financial support, donations of bedding, clothing, toiletries, food and furnishings.

Mitchell is its executive director and Catuccio is president of the privately funded, nonprofit organization's board of directors, and oversees IT projects such as installing its security system and setting up the computer lab for the youth.

The shelter, which has 14 beds for youths ages 12-17, opened in mid-February.

Just one of the beds was occupied on a visit last week, although Mitchell said two more youths were expected by nightfall.

One of the most significant challenges of operating a shelter is cultivating trust with a population that has left their family homes due to conflict, abuse or other difficulties with adults in their lives, she said.

Youth Futures also operates as a drop-in center, where youths can get a meal, take a shower, wash their clothes or pick up things they need such as food, clothing or a sleeping bag.

"We're also putting together a street outreach team," she said.

The goal, Mitchell said, is to develop an understanding and reputation among homeless and unaccompanied youths. At some point, they will feel comfortable enough to stay in the shelter, where they can work with staff to continue their education, reunite with their families if it is safe and appropriate, and work on other goals.

Homeless and unaccompanied youths are highly vulnerable so it is important that they spend as little time on the streets as possible, she said.

"They’re more likely to fall prey to something that’s a scam or trafficking than an adult would, especially when they’re newly homeless and they’re super trusting," Mitchell said. "They get hungry for the first time in their life, and someone offers them a ride and a bed and what they have to trade for it. It’s awful things they trade."

There are many reasons youths leave their homes. Mitchell said family dynamics can become stressed over disagreements over household rules, religion or other expectations. Some youths have experienced abuse and neglect.

One of the most heart-wrenching issues she encounters are youths who have come out to their families regarding their sexuality, she said. Youth Futures hopes to help youth — and their families — gain acceptance and move forward.

"If you need an adjustment period, if you need some time to just be away and you're saying, 'I can’t look at my kid right now,' they can come here and they can stay here during that time," Mitchell said.

Youth Futures has ties to the Family Acceptance Project, which can help families work through their issues, Mitchell said. Youths who do not feel accepted by their families are more likely to experience homelessness, abuse drugs and attempt suicide, she said.

"Even if you cannot have your kid in your home, you are still, as a parent, responsible to find them a safe place. You can’t just kick them out on the street. You have to find them some place that is safe," she said.

Mitchell wants youths and trusted adults to know that Youth Futures is ready to help 24/7.

"This is a safe place and they can trust us," she said. "We are here to advocate for the kids."

Mitchell said Youth Futures shelter home is a community resource that will continue to need the community's support. Lawn signs encourage contributions in the upcoming Love UT Give UT day of giving on Thursday.

"We really need to be able to sustain this. Anything helps," she said.

Utah Couple Works to Open Homeless Youth Shelter

Ogden’s homeless youth will soon have a place to stay overnight instead of being out on the streets.

One Utah couple is working to open a residential support facility to house children ages 12 to 17.

There hasn’t been a place like this before because until this July Utah laws considered housing a child in a shelter overnight as harboring a minor, and illegal.

The ‘Temporary Homeless Youth Shelter Amendments’ were passed during the last legislative session. They allow for the licensing of such “I think it’s bigger than anyone recognizes because these youth are hidden either literally hidden in camps and what we call off the grid, or sometimes they’re hidden in plain sight where they’re sleeping on someone’s couch or sleeping outside in their car.” – Rachel Peterson, executive director of Outreach Resource Centersfacilities, and require them to call the Division of Child and Family Services within 48 hours of the youth arriving at the shelter.

Youth Futures Shelter Home Executive Director, Kristen Mitchell, told FOX 13, “At eight hours we have to notify their parents. At 48 hours we have to notify DCFS. They can still stay here. We can help them find placement, we can help advocate for them, help reunify with their families if that’s what works best for them.”

According to experts, the problem of homeless youth in Utah is very real, though often unseen.

Rachel Peterson is the Executive Director for Outreach Resource Centers.

“I think it’s bigger than anyone recognizes because these youth are hidden either literally hidden in camps and what we call off the grid, or sometimes they’re hidden in plain sight where they’re sleeping on someone’s couch or sleeping outside in their car,” Peterson said.

Ogden resident Mary Bilderback said she’s taken in kids before.

“I’ve had friends of my kids when they were younger and they would have a fight with their parents or they were kicked out of their house or whatever and they didn’t have any place to go and you know what are you going to do, say no? Throw them on the street?” Bilderback asked.

Mitchell hopes to open the Youth Futures Shelter Home by December or January with room for 15 kids every night.

“If they’re a runaway, if they’ve been kicked out by their families, whatever reason that they’re homeless they can come here,” Mitchell said.

As a private facility with no ties to the juvenile justice system, Mitchell said she wants the kids who come to her shelter to feel at home.

“We’ll serve meals, three meals a day. We’re shooting for a home-like environment. It’s a group home so we want the kids to feel safe and secure and feel like it’s a home for them while they’re in transition,” she said.

St. Anne’s Shelter in Ogden plans to create a special section of their shelter for people ages 18 to 23.

Volunteers of America in Salt Lake City has been fundraising to build an overnight youth shelter but have not broken ground yet.

Youth Futures Shelter Home is always looking for donations and funding. For more information, click here:


Youth Futures Homeless Shelter seeks Public Donations

OGDEN — Leo Farmer says he owes his life to Ogden’s Youth Futures Homeless Shelter.

On his own since turning 18 a month ago, Farmer is just one of the 64 youths the shelter housed in its first 13 months of operation.

“I would most likely be dead if they hadn’t been there,” Farmer said.

Shelter staff members say after just 17 months of operation, they now face some of the same problems as their clients while they wait for needed grants. Staff at the shelter are hoping the public will reach out with donations to tide them over, just as they do for those they serve.

Shelter officials just learned they aren’t getting two grants they were counting on receiving.

“Things feel like they are going to work out,” Youth Futures Executive Director Kristen Mitchell said. “We just keep managing to make it.”

She said she hopes shelter publicity will entice people to make donations.

“It’s about wanting people to remember that just because we are not a new organization anymore doesn’t mean we don’t need their ongoing support,” Mitchell said.

This past year, the shelter’s budget was $302,000. Next year, they are expecting it to be in the range of $400,000.

Mitchell continues to make goals for expanding even while her organization is struggling.

“We’re just trying to keep the doors open,” she said, noting how loss of funding will mean the shelter will have to close. “That’s ultimately what will happen if we don’t have the funding. We keep managing to keep the doors open each payroll.”

Mitchell said shelter staff are “mad grant-writing” at this time, hoping for a couple of federal grants that are due next week.

In the last month, donations that came in from responses to a Huffington Post article about the shelter have kept the shelter on its feet for now, Mitchell said.

After a year of discovering the great needs by those she serves, Mitchell said she is more dedicated than ever to keep her nonprofit afloat.

Farmer found the shelter on the internet after much effort to leave what he described as a life of physical, mental and sexual abuse and years of confusion that led to him discovering he was transgender.

“I definitely had some idea of it growing up but no words to put to it,” he said. Explaining he had no computers in his home growing up, he said discovering the social media site Tumbler changed his perspective. “I found other people who were like me,” he said.

According to Youth Futures’ first annual report, with statistics from February 2015 to March 2016, half of those housed reported being gay and 17 percent said they were transgender. Fifty-two percent said they had attempted suicide.

Farmer said he had tried suicide multiple times, the last of which landed him in a psychiatric ward.

He arrived at the shelter shortly after that attempt. He said a friend from Logan drove to New Mexico to get him out of the hospital because officials there would not allow him to leave without being in someone’s care.

But his stay with his friend didn’t last long. Once he got back to his friend’s apartment, he said her father told him if he didn’t leave, police would be summoned.

“I moved out one hour before the cops got there,” he said.

He left quickly with the friend, who drove him there using the address he’d gotten from the internet for the shelter.

“The shelter was the only place I knew to go,” he said. 

He said it was the hard work of the staff at the shelter that convinced him he was worth saving.

“It’s not like I had much to live for, but I had a place to be and people trying to convince me otherwise. It definitely made a difference.”

Farmer now is working at Walmart, with plans to get a second job to pay off his hospital bills and his first semester at the University of New Mexico.

Farmer said he chose that school specifically because of its efforts to address gay and transgender issues. He was staying in a dorm specifically geared toward LGBT people. Farmer said he had paid for programs to help him graduate early from high school in Lubbock, Texas because he wanted to get away from his home life.

He said he liked his first semester at the University of New Mexico, but that enjoyment came to an end when he experienced anxiety after going home for Christmas break and payments came due for his first semester. He said he asked his parents to co-sign for student loans, but they refused.

It was during his time at the university that Farmer changed his first name from a female name. He said his parents first heard the name Leo when they called him at the hospital in January.

“I had a huge argument with my parents on the phone,” Farmer said. “That’s the last time I spoke to my dad.”

That refusal to acknowledge Farmer’s lifestyle was a challenge for him even after he arrived at Youth Futures.

Though he was diagnosed with depression and personality disorder in the hospital, Mitchell said Farmer’s parents would not give permission for him to receive psychiatric medications doctors said he needed.

Mitchell said the number one goal of Youth Futures is to improve relationships with those staying at the shelter and their families, sending them back home whenever possible.

“We work at helping parents understand the kid better and the kid understand the parent better,” Mitchell said. She noted that 85 percent of parents work with the shelter, often going there for therapy.

Mitchell said such improvements aren’t always possible, pointing to issues with Farmer’s parents as an example.

Other goals of the shelter include locating homeless youth who could benefit from services.

According to the first-year report, staff there spent 245 hours in street outreach, providing items needed by homeless youth. Mitchell said no one has been directly brought into the shelter through that strategy so far, but she is optimistic that such efforts will pay off in the future.

“We currently go out for street outreach one day a week, but we’d like to expand that to three,” Mitchell said. 

“It’s important to be consistent with street outreach,” she said. “You have to be there at the same time and in the same place, with the same faces to establish trust.”

The shelter, which works with other youth services programs, offers drop-in services, including case management, and connects youth to mental and physical health care, as well as group therapy. It also provides computer access, showers, laundry facilities.

The report lists 511 drop-in services provided in the first 13 months.

A resource room at the shelter, which provides clothing, hygiene items, backpacks, blankets, sleeping bags and basic medical supplies was opened for youth 354 times in the same time period.

Mitchell said since they opened, staff at the shelter discovered there is a high percentage of family poverty among homeless youth.

“A lot of families are homeless,” she said. “They may have a safe place to stay, but it’s not necessarily safe for their kid.”

Farmer said he is excited to start school next spring after he obtains Utah residency and can afford tuition at Utah State University. He plans to study art and wants to enter the movie industry.

Those who are interested in donating to Youth Futures may contact the shelter at 801-528-1214. Youth Futures Homeless Shelter is located at 2760 Adams Ave., in Ogden.


Utah's Homeless Youth Need Our Help Finding Shelter

They live among us, the young and homeless.

They walk past us, almost invisible, during the day. At night, some of them sleep beneath the city’s bridges.

How many? No one can say for certain.

But we can do more to help them find shelter and stability.

Youth Futures Utah opened the state’s first homeless shelter for youth in February 2015. As part of its outreach efforts, it visits homeless campsites in Ogden.

Usually they’re empty. But counselors park their van near the city’s trailheads, looking for displaced youths.

They’re among us. Counselors know from the blankets they abandon beneath city overpasses.

But they’re scared. They’re rejected. They don’t want to be found.

An estimated 40 percent identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and they’re no longer wanted at home. Or they’re fleeing abuse.

And they face serious risks — since they’re alone, they’re easily preyed upon by sex traffickers and drug dealers.

According to the 2014 Comprehensive Report on Homelessness, prepared for the Department of Workforce Services, about 29 percent of the state’s homeless are children. More than 12,000 are schoolchildren.

Youth between 18 and 24 made up 6.7 of Utah’s homeless population in 2014, researchers found. And they’re here, among us, in northern Utah.

The blankets prove it.

Youth Futures Utah sheltered 51 clients in its first year. But it has 14 beds and it can take more.

First, though, homeless youth need to know about the shelter.

That’s where you come in. Become an advocate. When you encounter a homeless teen, direct her to Youth Futures Utah.

The approach works, says Justine Murray, outreach director for Youth Futures Utah.

“Kids have been picked up off the streets by community members and brought to the shelter,” Murray told JaNae Francis, a reporter for the Standard-Examiner.

The Youth Futures Utah shelter is at 2760 South Adams in Ogden. The phone is 801 528-1214.

The young and homeless live among us. We know they do. 

Now you can help them find shelter.


Warm-Hearted Wildcats Provide Warm Beds

Thanks to the efforts of Weber State social work senior Kristen Mitchell, her partner Scott Cattucio, and many others in our campus community, homeless youths will be warmer this winter.

Mitchell has led her classmates in assistant professor Barrett Bonella’s macro social work course, and other Weber State-affiliated classes and groups, in readying the Youth Futures Shelter Home in downtown Ogden.

Mitchell successfully advocated for a legislative change that allows for the housing of homeless youth. Since then, Weber State has been gathering donations of furniture and other items and writing grants.  Fundraising has reached more than $240,000 so far. Job Corps and the carpenter’s union have also helped with the building itself, located on 2760 Adams Ave.

A renovated group home, the shelter is expected to open in January, with Mitchell as the executive director and co-founder Cattucio as board president.

“The project is 10-fold bigger than I could have imagined, but that’s OK,” Mitchell said. “We’ll just get it done.”

The shelter is sorely needed, she says, because youth are not allowed to stay in adult shelters. Services within the shelter will include anything from life-sustaining services to financial literacy and resume writing programs.

“For me, it’s just wonderful to see my students going out there and making a difference in the world,” Bonella said.

Weber State students are reaching out to their communities in many more ways. For instance, the Department of Health Promotion and Human Performance and Department of Visual Arts and Design are partnering with the Weber-Morgan Health Department for a unique approach to learning about our community’s health.

About 20 students are conducting observation and taking field notes from focus groups that will paint a picture residents’ health. A separate phase of the project, which will also involve faculty member Liese Zahabi and visual art students, will ask residents to take photos and videos that tell the story of the community’s health. Those pictures and video will be featured in an exhibit at the health department’s building in Ogden.

“We’re not doing research on people, we’re doing research with people,” said assistant professor of health promotion Laura Santurri, who is leading the focus groups and guiding WSU health promotion and human performance students.

These two projects are just a couple examples of Weber State students learning through doing – and benefitting their community along the way.


Youth Futures Works to Reach Ogden's Homeless Youth, Bring More to Shelter

OGDEN — A few fresh blankets on an island of dry land beneath a downtown Ogden bridge get Justine Murray’s imagination rolling.

She knows someone crossing over to the secluded island would probably have to get wet walking through the river — not and ideal situation for someone without access to shelter. That means the person really didn’t want to get caught sleeping outside, she thinks. 

“Their stories are incredible,” Murray said of the city’s homeless population. “You are like, ‘What? You slept outside for a year?’ It blows your mind. It really does.”

Murray, program manager for Youth Futures Utah’s street outreach program, said visiting campsites in the downtown area each week tells her a lot about the city’s homeless population. The organization serves as the city’s shelter for homeless youth and opened in February 2015 following a yearlong push from community activists.

Youth Futures workers who are part of the street outreach program have been scouring the city for homeless kids in need of help since the initiative started in January. Kristen Mitchell, Youth Futures’ executive director, said even though there’s not an exact count of homeless youth available for Utah — or the Ogden area, for that matter — studies estimate 5,000 kids around the state spend at least one night homeless per year.

However, the number of kids ages 12 to 18 Youth Futures has served provides at least some insight into youth homelessness in Ogden. Mitchell said the shelter had 51 kids stay overnight during its first year of operation. On top of that, she said the group provided drop-in services to 408 kids who chose not to stay the night, served 5,750 meals and had their supply room accessed 291 times.

So in hopes of finding more kids to serve and letting more people know about the shelter, Youth Futures workers participate in the street outreach program on Wednesdays. The team usually includes Murray and intern Cami Berger, but two or three other workers are part of the effort as well, Mitchell said.

Thus far, their work hasn’t led to them finding any youth to bring back to the shelter. But thankfully, other community members they’ve spoken with as part of their outreach efforts have had more success reaching homeless kids and sending them to Youth Futures.

“Kids have been picked up off the street by community members and brought to the shelter,” Murray said. 


Spreading the word about the shelter is an important component of the street outreach effort, Murray said.

“We have to get out and tell people that we are a safe place,” Murray said. “You can bring the kids there. It’s really just about telling people what we do.”

For example, Berger said she goes around town handing out fliers at gas stations, schools, the Marshall White Center — anywhere she thinks kids might be hanging out.

Tracking down homeless youth and letting them know about the shelter is especially important because of the dangers they may face on the streets — including being forced into sex trafficking, resorting to dealing drugs, abusing drugs and alcohol, and more, Mitchell said.

Mitchell noted there are a wide range of reasons kids end up homeless, but common ones include getting kicked out of their homes, running away or fleeing from abusive situations. She said one boy Youth Futures served became homeless after a fire displaced his family.

In addition to visiting campsites and handing out information, Murray and Berger also park their Youth Futures vehicle near trailheads at various points on Wednesdays. They focus on spots they’ve heard homeless people are staying, watching for displaced kids or people who might know them.

“Our game plan is to find adults that know where kids are staying,” Murray said.

Murray and her team come prepared with canned food and blankets they can give to homeless youth, even if the kids don’t want to come back to the shelter. Soon, she wants to get equipment that will let homeless youth charge their phones and electronic devices.

“The feedback we’ve gotten from other outreach teams in Salt Lake City tells us to do that,” she said.

Murray said working for the program — doing outreach, mapping out where homeless people stay — provides a new perspective.

“It gives you a whole different dynamic of what Ogden looks like,” she said. “It’s right in their backyard. It’s happening, and people just don’t think about it, I guess.”

Working in street outreach is also an exercise in getting out of your comfort zone, Murray said.

“We were hitting camps where they were sleeping,” she said of her first experience doing street outreach in the city. “I didn’t expect it to be in Ogden near the river.”

When Murray and Berger aren’t doing street outreach, they spend their time at the Youth Futures shelter, helping the kids who are staying there. Murray said seven are residing there right now, two of whom are 17-year-olds who will soon move on from the shelter.

The shelter meets the kids’ basic needs, but also focuses on their futures by taking them on Weber State University tours and helping them search for jobs.

Each day at the shelter brings with it a different problem that requires a new solution, Murray said.

“It’s my favorite population,” said Murray, who’s worked with homeless Utahns for more than two years. ”It’s so unique. It’s never the same. It’s not like work. Something different works for everyone.”

Youth Futures is located at 2760 Adams Ave, in Ogden.


Utah's First Homeless Youth Shelter Coming to Ogden

OGDEN — There are still floors to replace and furniture to buy, but community donations are helping make the state's first homeless shelter for teens a reality. 

"The phone's ringing off the hook, but we still need help," said Kristen Mitchell, co-owner of the Youth Futures shelter. 

Mitchell and her life-partner, Scott Cattucio, bought the former group home at 2760 Adams Ave. last July. That's around the same time a new Utah law went into effect allowing shelters to house youths between ages 12 and 17 overnight. 

"There was nobody that could help them, because there was this law," Mitchell said. "They could give them a tent and a sleeping bag, but they couldn't stay open longer than eight hours." 

Under the new law, shelter workers and volunteers will still have to call a teens' parents within the first eight hours. After 48 hours, they will have to notify the Utah Department of Child and Family Services but can still house youths afterward under certain conditions. 

Mitchell has been working to open some kind of a youth help center for more than six years and says she learned of the challenges homeless youth face after trying to find resources for her own children. 

"I found there was a lot of people, a lot of kids, families, who had it a lot worse than we did," Mitchell said. "It was really hard for me to go to bed at night and know that there was kids sleeping on the streets, camping in the mountains." 

Cattucio's interest in helping homeless youth comes partly because was one himself, spending six months on his own. 

"I had a lot of my own personal issues when I was a kid," Cattucio said. "I was really self-destructive; sabotaging relationships, work situations." 

He hopes the Youth Futures Shelter will help others like him choose a different path. 

"I had 15 years of a rather difficult life," he said. "If I could have dealt with some of those issues when I was younger, I wouldn't have had to deal with that." 

For information on how to help or make donations, visit


Ogden Youth Shelter to be Utah's First

OGDEN — Ogden is about to gain Utah’s first residential support shelter specifically geared to help youth ages 12 to 17.

Those behind the venture, called Youth Futures, have invested their own resources and much of their lives to make the shelter possible. They say it is designed to create a world where all youth have a safe, supportive and affirming place to call home.

But the Syracuse residents say the shelter can’t happen fast enough and they are betting on the community rallying around them to bring their plans to fruition as soon as possible.

They hoped to be open in time for cold weather but they don’t believe such a dream will be reality.

“The possibility of a kid out on the street dying of exposure increases just daily,” said Scott Catuccio, executive vice president of the Youth Futures Shelter Home.

The shelter, opening up at 2760 Adams Ave., will be available to start helping kids with whatever needs they have Nov. 1, but actually housing them will have to wait until all the government requirements may be met.

A new state law allowing such shelters went into effect July 1 but the rules to govern such facilities still had to be adopted.

Catuccio’s business and life partner, Kristen Mitchell, has helped in writing the new rules. The rules are still up for public scrutiny. They may be viewed at

The soonest these rules can be put into force is Oct. 22, allowing the couple to set up shop as soon as they can meet all the licensing requirements.

“If we could be open Nov. 1, I am ready to take kids,” Catuccio said. “I would like it to be Nov. 1 but I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

While grateful for being able to open as a shelter in December or January, Catuccio wishes he could open much sooner.

“Had the law change occurred sooner in the year, our actual ability to open would have been in warmer months when it was less critical, I suppose,” he said.

But with the community’s help, opening at the soonest possible date will be more likely.

The two are hoping members of area community groups will visit the shelter at an open house set for 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17. They are hoping those who visit will see great needs and pitch in where they can.

“We are under construction,” Mitchell said. “We need lots of stuff. We need lots of funding. We are working at getting the community to come in and see.”

Youth Futures is a registered non-profit 501(C)(3) organization that already has garnered support from a number of organizations, including the Standard-Examiner.

Efforts to promote the newspaper’s first ever year-long initiative, Young & Homeless, have included backing the shelter from its conception.

“Our goal is to provide unaccompanied, runaway and homeless youth with a safe and nurturing environment where they can develop the needed skills to become active, healthy, successful members of our community,” said Mitchell, who is president of Youth Futures. “Because shelter care is currently unavailable to youth in Utah, it is essential that we begin providing this needed service.”

At this time Utah has no overnight shelter for homeless youth.

“This means a youth who becomes homeless will sleep on the streets tonight,” Mitchell said. “It is estimated that approximately 5,000 youth experience homelessness in Utah at some point over the course of one year.”

And Mitchell said it breaks her heart to know that these youth have no place to go.

“Adult shelters must turn them away, and drop-in centers can provide them a sleeping bag, tent and food and have had to turn them away also, because it has been illegal to house them,” she said.

The new facility will provide 15 beds in a home-like environment to shelter homeless, runaway and unaccompanied youth.

“Our program will provide these youth with assessment and evaluation, followed by guidance toward family mediation and re-unification or placement in a variety of programs available in the community,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell and Catuccio both have been pursuing such an effort for many years but were unable make their plans a reality without support and changes in Utah’s law.

Catuccio said he moved to Utah 15 years ago from Northglen, Colorado with a plan for a non-profit agency to provide avenues to help kids feel better about themselves. When that didn’t work out, he said he went to work.

He now runs a computer repair business.

Catuccio was homeless himself when he was 16 but he said he was grateful at least to have a job at the time.

Even though he was employed, he said he experienced first-hand the abuses that happen to youths who are homeless and vulnerable.

But now, Catuccio said he wants to change society to give these youth a chance.

“It’s so much easier to deal with personal issues, to deal with trauma when you are younger,” he said. “Things happen to them when they are young and they don’t deal with it until they are older and they have a lifetime of pain. If we can change the cycle so we deal with it when they are younger, everyone is better off.”

Mitchell said she became interested in helping homeless youth when as a single mother, she was trying to find services for her own children.

“I found out there were kids who had it so much worse,” she said. “We had such a lack of resources for youth.”

Mitchell said she’s been wanting to open the shelter for six years, even considering opening such a facility in her Syracuse home at one point.

“As I started out, I found out I couldn’t do it, not without breaking the law,” she said.

Mitchell was one who lobbied for changes in the law made this last legislative session when a bill sponsored by Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, was passed. The legislation was made possible through much effort by Laura Warburton of Huntsville, who serves as a volunteer assistant to Froerer.

Call 801-528-1214 or email for more information about Youth Futures. Visit the organization’s website at

The Standard-Examiner Young & Homeless Initiative is an effort to find ways to get the community to come together and lift up youth who are at risk of becoming homeless or who become homeless.

The Standard-Examiner is donating $1 for efforts to fight youth homelessness for every donation made online as part of the Standard-Examiner Young & Homeless initiative, up to $10,000.

To donate, visit


Roy Boy Fills Shelter Pantry

ROY — Most children have heard their mothers tell them to eat all their dinner because there are starving children in the world, but when 8-year-old Briggs Wesley heard his aunt tell his cousins that, he took it to heart and took action.

Now five truckloads of food later, the Youth Futures Shelter Home, a new Ogden homeless shelter for youth, is building a food pantry to keep all the food Wesley donated.

“We were just eating dinner and started talking about starving children and my mom showed me some pictures. I decided I didn’t want any little kids to be starving,” Wesley said.

So he started a food drive. He and his mom, Natalie Wesley, created a flier and hung it up all over their apartment complex to start gathering food. He then talked with his principal at Lakeview Elementary. She got counselor Jamie Stonehocker involved.

Stonehocker leads the school’s peer leaders. She had Briggs talk to the council, made up of fifth and sixth graders and they were all impressed.

“When they heard this third grader with this great idea they instantly jumped on board,” Stonehocker said. “Briggs just inspired these kids and really the whole school, even the teachers.”

The peer leaders and Briggs came up with the idea to have a contest between classes and it was a hit. Students were bringing in lots of food.

“It really motivated the sixth graders because they were so inspired by this little third-grade boy. They knew if he could do it, they could do it,” Stonehocker said.

Briggs said the hardest part of the drive was getting his school to donate, but once they figured out to do the contest, things went really well.

“Everyone has just been so, so sweet with all of this,” Natalie Wesley said.

When Briggs would tell people what he was trying to do, people were so happy to help, she added. She admitted that when Briggs first asked if he could do the food drive, she thought he would get a box of food and that would be great. She had no idea the response he would get and how big his plans were.

He put a plea on Facebook through friends’ and family’s pages and he started getting cash donations. Because he was interested in helping young kids, Natalie started calling around and found the Youth Futures Shelter that will be opening in a couple of weeks and it seemed like a perfect fit.

Kristen Mitchell, shelter director, said she is in awe of the donations.

“It’s absolutely amazing that an 8-year-old could motivate so many. I am just floored. It’s awesome,” Mitchell said.

Before Briggs’ drive, they had little to no food at the shelter.

“It is now covering our living room floor. We won’t have to buy any food for a while,” she said. “We are now building a food pantry.”

Every couple of days Briggs would call Mitchell, telling her how much food he had. “He would tell me his grandma’s basement was filled with food and then that his mom’s car was full,” she said with a laugh.

For Natalie, it changed her Christmas. “I personally couldn’t get into Christmas and then there was this, coming from a child,” Natalie said of her son.

Stonehocker agreed. “A part of me isn’t surprised, because kids really want to do good things. They see what they have and they want to help others,” she said. She has watched Briggs and his shyness and has been impressed with his drive to serve others as she has watched all of this unfold.

“He’s just a little shy guy and his heart is as big as this world,” Stonehocker said.

Briggs doesn’t plan to stop with this one drive.

“Oh, I’m going to do this every year,” he said.

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