Relocating to the former Rickman Center property by mid-2016 will allow the Jefferson City HALO Learning Center to expand the reach of its Transitional Living Program from five teenagers to 30 at a time.
HALO is an international organization that has founded orphanages around the world and also serves homeless youth in the Kansas City area. The Jefferson City HALO Learning Center launched in 2012, offering art therapy and future-focused programs to at-risk and low-income youth.
The local HALO agency began the Transitional Living Program (TLP) in summer 2014 to address what surveys and Jefferson City public school officials identified as a homelessness problem among area teenagers - HALO estimated there were 135 homeless youths in Jefferson City at the time.
"What we do is we respond to needs - the most difficult, desperate situations there are, whether it's child soldiers in Uganda or girls who are sex-trafficked in Kenya or homeless kids in Jefferson City," said HALO Foundation Founder Rebecca Welsh. "We're in the state capital and we don't even have a youth shelter. They literally have nowhere to go."
Currently, the TLP operates out of several units in a Jefferson City apartment complex, with a full capacity of five girls and five babies. The program houses three to five girls, some with children, on average. A TLP staff member supervises the living arrangement.
"We don't have as much control as we'd like to have," Welsh said. "The apartment living is not ideal. It's hard to not have everyone under the same roof. It's just too scattered for us, and we really do serve as parental figures for them.
Imagine being in high school and having a parent in a different apartment."
The TLP's new location - the former Rickman Conference Center off U.S. 54 a few miles southwest of Jefferson City - will offer a more remote setting as well as allow HALO to add health care and job training to help teenagers become contributing members of the community, Welsh said.
HALO has secured a long-term lease on the former Rickman property, which includes a 24,000-square-foot facility on 70 acres. F&F Development, whose subsidiary is Farmer Holding Company, purchased the entire 200-acre property in September 2015, slating at least 50 acres to move the company's quarry operations and asphalt plant from the future site of the Special Olympics Missouri Training for Life campus on nearby Christy Drive, as well as 20 highway-front acres for potential commercial development.
HALO will renovate the conference center facility and rename it the HALO Home.
"I just keep picturing our girls being able to be outside with their little ones," Welsh said, noting the property already has outdoor facilities including a basketball court, baseball field and several trails.
HALO will conduct the renovation in two phases. First, the agency will reconfigure approximately 7,487 square feet on the building's main level to create living units and add new bathrooms and furnishings - with a projected cost of $500,000. The residential area should be ready for occupancy by June 2016.
Second, HALO will reconfigure the remaining 12,859 square feet on the building's lower level, creating not only more living units but also a kitchen, a laundry room and an office for TLP staff, as well as replacing the roof and adding new windows - with a projected cost of $800,000. The project's anticipated completion date is December 2016.
The expanded TLP will be open to homeless or high-risk young women and men ages 16-21 and their dependents, offering a three-month initial stay during which staff will determine whether there is a need for an 18-month, long-term placement. The TLP will provide participating youth with housing, food, transportation and support to continue education, as well as on-site health care, including behavioral, primary and oral health care.
The TLP's training programs will help youth set achievable goals; learn to manage their finances; attain a sustaining job or higher education; and learn life skills like cooking, cleaning and presenting oneself professionally, according to the news release.
Program participants have an income less than 25 percent of the median income for Cole County. Typical TLP participants are not involved in foster care and cannot live with their parents due to incarceration, addiction, physical or emotional abuse, financial burdens or other factors, according to a HALO news release.
HALO will be exploring options including individual donations, grants and tax credits to fund the renovation project as well as necessary staff additions, Welsh said. HALO's largest annual fundraiser, the HALO Artreach Auction, is scheduled for March 4 at Capital Mall; information about tickets and sponsorships is available on HALO's website, www.halojeffcity.org.