SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Springfield teenagers in need of support now have a central location where they can connect with resources. On Tuesday, FosterAdopt Connect held a ribbon cutting of its new YouthConnect Center.

The drop-in center is specifically for teens aged 13 to 18 to find resources. Many of these youth are unsheltered or don’t have a stable family dynamic.

Organizers said the specific age range is to help fill a gap that exists in the community.

“They had some programs that could assist them, but not for case management, not full mentorship that they needed,” said Executive Director Brandi VanAntwerp.

The center serves hot meals daily and houses a food pantry for youth to stock up on goods as needed. It also has a clothing closet and laundry services on-site, as well as showers and hygiene items.

“We have different classes or support group programs so they can be learning, ensuring that they’re enrolled in school if they haven’t already graduated,” said VanAntwerp.

The hope is to not just work with the youth, but the family as a whole.

“We’ve had a youth that’s come through to us who was 16, living in the car with mom and a dog,” said VanAntwerp. “Mom has two jobs but can’t afford housing, so our hope is we can work with mom to help her find a better paying job so she can secure housing,”

For youth coming by Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., all they must give is their first and last name and age.

“I hope that anybody that walks in, but the youth specifically, just know that they belong here,” said YouthConnect Center Director Erin Washburn.

After opening last month, organizers said the word is getting out about the new service.

“We’ve seen over 30 individual youth,” said VanAntwerp. “I think we can sometimes be blissfully unaware of the need that we have in our youth. The numbers have been even higher than we’ve seen in many years.”

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