SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The ConnectYouth Center in downtown Springfield is looking to address teenage homelessness. 

“We have eight beds total that we can fill,” Erin Washburn said. “According to Springfield Public Schools, our community has anywhere between 1,100 and 1,400 hundred youth that qualify as homeless, and there are no other crisis cold weather shelters for those youth.” 

Washburn says preparation has been underway for months. 

“We’ve been preparing for cold weather shelter for several months and we knew that it was going to get cold again,” Washburn said. “We definitely have appreciated the people who have come forward and helped us with blankets and pillows and cots and things that we needed to provide and make this happen in a short amount of time.” 

One of the group’s family navigators says homelessness just adds to the stress teenagers face. 

“I think being an adolescent is difficult for everybody, even under the best circumstances,” Nathan Webb said. “Whenever you throw in things like food insecurity, not knowing where you’re going to stay, just various troubles at home, it just kind of compounds and makes everything more difficult. Schooling becomes harder. Relationships can be harder.” 

In addition to warmth, Webb says the center can help provide stability to those in need. 

“I think one of the big advantages of the center is that it just kind of provides like a sense of normalcy in a life that can tend to be a little bit tumultuous,” Webb said. “They can consistently come and receive different services that they need, but also just have people that they can form connections with.”