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story.lead_photo.caption A furnished bedroom is seen at HALO Home in the former Rickman Conference Center. The center provides living quarters for homeless teens for up to 24 months with the ultimate goal of fostering independence. HALO Home opened in Jefferson City last week. Photo by Shelby Kardell / News Tribune.

Youth shelter opportunities in Jefferson City just got bigger with the grand opening of HALO's new facility at the former Rickman Center, 3519 Bennett Lane.

HALO's local teen homeless shelter has been housing youth in the Jefferson City community since 2015. The organization serves homeless youth by providing basic needs, shelter and residential programs, as well as professional development programs that promote lifelong skills.

Prior to opening the new facility, the organization was able to serve up to six youth. Now they can serve up to 48.

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Rebecca Welsh, HALO executive director, said homelessness for a teen is not cool.

"A homeless kid in our community just looks like a kid," Welsh said. "But we know there is an urgent need for additional youth shelters in this community."

She said there has always been a waiting list for youth to get into the housing assistance program, but with the grand opening of its new facility Jan. 24, HALO has even more space for more residents.

Essentially, the organization has transitioned from renting apartments around town to bringing all youth under one roof.

Welsh said apartment housing arrangements made it difficult to monitor safety and offer the support youth need, even with house parents around. She explained some of the youth had friends and family members who were bad influences and not supportive of them building a fresh start in life.

"Even if you're a parent and you're trying to monitor and offer your teen support, it's difficult to form that relationship without that daily contact," Welsh said. "We teach the youth with love, care and the basic life skills they need in this world, and the new facility helps us do that."

This will not be a place where the youth will have daily maid service, she said. They will learn to cook their own meals, pay their bills and take care of themselves. On a case-by-case basis, the youth will be allowed to stay for up to two years.

Welsh is grateful for the community support HALO has gotten since the beginning of the organization's journey to combat youth homelessness.

"Jefferson City has blown us away with their generosity," she said. "Whatever we needed, the community was willing to step up to give."

Those interested in volunteering or donating can contact HALO at 573-418-9912.

HALO's annual ArtReach Auction, featuring artwork from orphans around the world, as well as nationally recognized artists, is scheduled for March 3 at the new home.

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