THORNTON, Colo. — Two years ago, the Thornton Police Chief and Colorado's 17th District Attorney's Office agreed there was a need for a youth shelter in Adams County. In 2022, the DA's office proposed the idea of a youth shelter bill to state representatives.
The bill later passed and was signed into law last summer. The new law allows for funding of shelter options for displaced youth in judicial districts throughout the state.
After the bill passed, District Attorney Brian Mason and Thornton Police Chief Terrence Gordon began partnering to come up with a plan. It took more than 18 months to secure funding and find a location. Earlier this month, the Thornton City Council secured the new location of the Community Reach Center as the upcoming location.
"Early on in my tenure as district attorney, law enforcement picked up a young woman who had been human trafficked. She hadn’t committed a crime. She wasn’t going to go into juvenile detention center, and we had no where for her to go. What was clear to me and my colleagues is that we needed a youth shelter in Adams County," said District Attorney Brian Mason.
The 10-bed facility will be used as a temporary shelter for youth ages 12 to 18. Kids will be able to stay there voluntarily. The facility will not be used a detention facility or in any punitive form. It is specifically designed for young people who are displaced, homeless and have no where to go.
"When that displacement happens, that often happens before that young person committed a crime or has been victimized," said Mason. "It’s that window of opportunity where we have to act and where we have to find a place for them to go."
They hope it will create a long-term impact and keep kids safe rather than being on the streets where they can be traumatized, victims of crimes or involved in crimes as a result.
"This was a gaping hole in Adams County with having no place to take youth who are not involved in the criminal justice system. Kids can be victims. They aren’t always suspects," said Police Chief Gordon.
Right now, there is no real process in place to help young people who are displaced but come in contact with law enforcement. Before this facility, Gordon says his officers would often sit for hours in the police department lobby trying to come up with a plan. Calls would be made to reunite kids with their family, connect them to the Colorado Department of Human Services or other resources.
"It’s very very difficult after 5 o’clock on holidays and over the weekends to find somewhere to take these kids. We often end up sitting with them in hours until the rest of the system comes back online because it is extremely important," said Chief Gordon.
The end goal of the shelter is for youth to have a stepping stone to find permanent housing or to establish reunification with their families or a guardian.
The plan is for the youth shelter to open by the end of the year, as soon as possible. It is funded for 12 months with $1.2 million. The funding came through the District Attorney's Office through a grant from the American Recovery Act.
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