Youth Services seeks $1 million grant

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In an effort to reach out to the community's runaway and homeless youths, Moffat County's Youth Services Department has applied for a $1 million grant.

Kelly Patterson, Youth Services director, said the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program grant would be distributed throughout five years.

"The first year, we would get the community on board," Patterson said. "We need to get a feeling for what we are dealing with. We don't know the exact number of homeless youth - we don't yet know the magnitude of the problem."

Patterson said the largest issue the community faces concerning runaway youths and homelessness is a lack of knowledge.

"For instance, some people might not think that couch surfing, or constantly moving from house to house, is that big of an issue," she said. "Teenagers need to have a stable home environment in order to be successful."

Patterson said the grant was the largest the Youth Services Department has applied for.

"This is a huge opportunity for us, and it's exciting," she said.

Six rural communities are applying for the grant.

"We would be able to use research from the other rural communities," Patterson said. "We could tap in to the research from whichever community wins the grant."

If Moffat County is the recipient of the grant, then the community would play a vital role in how the money is used, Patterson said.

"The community will pick how we use the funds," she said. "If they want a homeless shelter, that's fine, but we don't know if it would be successful, or if the community could sustain something of that magnitude."

The money is spread across several years for a reason, Patterson said.

"If they just gave all of the grant money to a community at once, it wouldn't be as effective," Patterson said. "They want us to come up with a community plan for how we would use the grant dollars."

During an organizational meeting last week before the grant application was sent out, multiple organizations and people volunteered to be on an advisory committee overseeing the money.

"They range from people in the school district, members of the community, the sheriff's department, the school board and the police department," she said. "The board would help decide how to use the funds and not just have strict guidelines saying 'Do this, this, and this.'"

A large portion of the grant would be used for presentations in the high school.

"Once we know more, we can move forward with organization, and get as much education out as possible," she said. "We want them to know where to go, and what's available to them."

Education would be used to direct runaway or homeless youths to the right place, Patterson said.

"There's a lot being asked of them - trying to get through their high school work, filling out job applications, getting signed up for food stamps," Patterson said. "We want all of those services in one location, so they're not running back and forth."

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