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Man to Reopen Lawton School as Youth Center

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LAWTON Okla_ A local man has a big dream to help homeless young adults.

Thaddeus Johnson wants to renovate the old Dunbar Elementary School in Lawton into a sanctuary for young adults. He envisions a place where they would live and learn the skills they need to support themselves.

It will be a huge chore, because the building has been vacant since the 1970s. There is some work to be done in there. A lot of windows are broken out, and it needs all new wiring, plumbing, and a new ceiling. The building itself looked in good shape.

Johnson said he put a similar sanctuary together in Tennessee, so he hopes to repeat that success here. Johnson founded the program from his own experiences. At the age of 17, he was out living on the streets, and he doesn't want that life for anyone.

"No one should have to live on the streets," Johnson said. "No one should have to scrounge around in a trash can for food."

Johnson said for many who have been through the court system and have been in jail, when they get out they have no where to go and no skills on how to get out of the streets.

"They can't use a computer," Johnson said. "There are literacy issues. They can't read beyond a 5th or 6th grade level, and we see that all the time. So, what we want to do is get them in here and teach them those things they are lacking."

He started the program four years ago, and a camp is running in Tennessee. He said the first class of ten that went through is his biggest success story.

"They're married, they have their own jobs, they have kids, they have businesses, and stuff like that," Johnson said. "It has saved them; it has saved their lives."

The biggest challenge is getting the people going through to begin trusting again and to get over the stereotype that they will be nothing.

"Everybody is good at something," Johnson said. "You just have to find what it is and play to your strengths and things like that."

He has a long way to go with a lot of repairs. It all starts Thursday, when the plumber will be out to take a look at the plumbing.


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