DUNCAN, OK (KSWO) - A shelter for kids in Duncan has closed its doors, but a new community resource center will be taking its place this fall.
The Bill Phelps-Elaine Jones Youth Shelter previously had a residential license through the Department of Human Services, meaning children in need could live at the shelter for an extended time.
Recently the shelter chose to get rid of that license, instead applying for what is called a drop-in license. That will allow them to offer services to a wider range of children in the Duncan area.
The new center will focus mainly on middle school and high school kids in the area. They'll have an after-school program for kids in grades six through eight and they're even partnering with Duncan Public Schools to offer services for kids who have been suspended from school.
Stephens County has had an emergency shelter for more than 30 years, but Barbra Davis, the community outreach director for youth services of Stephens County Incorporated, said in recent years, the community's needs have changed.
"Within the past five years we've seen a huge decrease in a number of kids we've been able to serve," Davis said. "We weren't serving the number of kids we were five years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago. So, the system has changed."
As a result, the shelter was shut down and plans were made to begin helping a whole new group of kids.
"We've discovered that there's a population in our community that needs our help," Davis said. "These are middle school kids predominantly. There are many programs for early childhood development, there are great United Way nonprofit agencies that help Kindergarten through 5th grade. However, once kids enter middle school in Duncan, Oklahoma, they kind of fall off a cliff. There are no services for them."
Davis said the middle school years are some of the most important in a kids life.
"It's pre-adolescence, it's adolescence, these kids are trying to discover who they are and where they're going, we want to bring them in, we want to teach them, we want to develop them," Davis said.
The new shelter will have a library, a room for games and crafts and a meditation room. The resource center will also offer an after-school program open to all middle school kids.
"We want to feed them, help them with homework, we want to bring in guest speakers, we want to get them ready for the future," Davis said.
"We want to be career ready, we want to be goal oriented. We also want to get kids in touch with their emotions."
There will also be a free program for suspended middle and high school kids at Duncan Public Schools.
"Of course parents need to be informed and they need to be asked," Davis said. "They will have the option, your child can be suspended and go home and maybe be unsupervised while you're at work or your child can come to the community resource center and be supervised in a safe environment, fed and nourished from the inside and out."
While the suspension program will be free, the afternoon program will cost around $10 or $15. Davis said if a family cannot afford to pay the fee, it can be waived. She said they are always looking for sponsors to get involved financially. For more information on how to get involved, you can call 580-255-8800