There was a time Kelly Patterson doubted whether Moffat County had homeless youths.
That's not the case anymore.
"We definitely have a runaway issue here," said Patterson, director of the Moffat County Youth Services Department. "It does exist."
To address that problem, Patterson and others got busy and a little lucky.
Some organizations apply for three grants and get one.
Youth Services applied for one grant and got three.
The first was a $1 million allocation from the federal government, which will be shared by Moffat and five other rural counties that collectively make up the Rural Collaborative for Homeless Youth.
Moffat County received a first payment of $15,000 in October 2008, which it used to organize public meetings to raise awareness for homeless youths and establish a committee to oversee future developments.
Patterson said Moffat County will continue to receive payments for the next five years, including a second $15,000 installment in October.
She could not say how the money would be spent. That will depend on community input and changing needs.
"With the first $15,000 and the second coming this year, we really need to get the community educated on homelessness, what it looks like and do we have it here," Patterson said. "After that, the community is going to dictate what happens to this money."
In her mind, however, the money would not be used best by building a homeless shelter - she does not think there are enough people who would need to use it.
Things that may be more beneficial, Patterson said, include funding to pay for families to register as host homes and take in indigent minors and developing ways to teach life and job skills.
"Those things that prevent homelessness," she explained.
Patterson added she does not want the committee overseeing the money to be the same faces from her department, Moffat County Social Services and other local groups.
Anyone is welcome to attend meetings or join the group officially.
Patterson said the group does not have a set date for its next meeting, but she will publicize it when a date and location are finalized.
The two other grants come from state Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds, which make up the state's welfare system, among several other programs.
The first is for $44,500 to be paid during 18 months, and will pay for crisis counseling, such as helping a family cope with why a child is running away, as well as provide families and homeless youths with ways to succeed, Patterson said.
"If someone needs a jacket or something to wear to a job interview, we can provide that to them," she said. "Or if they need gas, anything, and can show they're trying to get a job and make it work, we can help."
All of those services already exist through the Community Budget Center, Love INC., Colorado Workforce and others, Patterson said. The grant money will help pay for families to use those services.
"We have great services here, and we need to take advantage of them and make them available to people," Patterson said. "Grants go away. They always do. I don't want to create something new that's unsustainable and goes away after a few years."
The third grant ties everything together, she added.
It amounts to $98,000 paid during two years, which Patterson will use to hire a coordinator that works between all the different groups involved.
"Basically, that person will work with all the different groups involved and make the connection between them," Patterson said.
She said she is hopeful the grants will make a difference.
Patterson added she is thankful the state sees a need to address homelessness in its rural communities. It's possibly the first time the state has given this much money to the issue.
"The state has worked really hard to make this happen," she said. "Rural areas are so different than urban. They have shelters in urban areas. But, what do people do here? This is the first time people will address that. We're going to learn how, because nobody has ever done that before."