'It's hard being a high school student': Youth House to help homeless teen girls

On Monday morning, St. Vincent de Paul broke ground for their new Youth House project. (SBG)

EUGENE, Ore. - Homeless teenagers in Eugene are one step closer to a place to call their own.

On Monday morning, St. Vincent de Paul broke ground for their new Youth House project.

The project will provide housing for 13 homeless high school girls.

The Youth House will be located on Willamette Street, at the former Cascade Presbyterian Church.

According to Shaynor Newsome, lead pastor of City Church Eugene, which was formerly Cascade Presbyterian Church, the church body moved out of the Willamette street building in February.

They moved to the HiFi Music Hall in downtown Eugene with an effort to be better connected to the people of the city.

Newsome said the church congregation is planning on staying connected with the Youth House by serving there.

Some people called Monday’s groundbreaking, a ground-shaking.

The community could feel the movement - the movement of giving homeless teenage girls a fighting chance to succeed.

“It's hard being a high school student in general," said Chris Parra, Superintendent of the Bethel School District. "With all the academic subjects that you have to take and the homework. And often times for students who don't know where they're going to sleep at night, staying involved and connected to school is hard for them.”

When completed, the Youth House will house girls 16 to 18 years old rent free for up to two years, with the requirement that they stay in school until graduation.

A manager will live on-site, and the house will include a community space, kitchen, laundry, counseling office and computer lab.

Each student-resident will be assigned a mentor, and a full-time caseworker will help youth connect to social services and work with students, mentors and school officials to create individualized life plans.

This project has piqued the interest and support of the Lane County community.

"Well I actually was just walking by and I saw the balloons and I've been really keeping an eye on this project because I'm really excited for this opportunity to help kids in need to graduate high school,” said Eugene Resident Sally Krueger.

St. Vincent de Paul has several community partners backing up this project, including Springfield, Eugene, and Bethel school districts.

Last December, SVDP purchased building with a $625,000 federal HOME grant awarded by the Eugene-Springfield Home Consortium.

So far SVDP has raised more than 70 percent of the $1.85 million needed to complete the project.

The nonprofit has received grants from the Oregon Community Fund (OCF), as well as the Collins, Chambers and Autzen foundations Earlier this year, local philanthropist and community activist Tom Bowerman announced a $50,000 challenge grant from the Barbara Bowerman Fund of the OCF, and the grant has since been fully matched by donors.

Key project partners including Hosea Youth Services, which will operate the Youth House, the Eugene, Springfield and Bethel school districts, The 15th Night Coalition and the Eugene-Springfield Home Consortium.

Monday’s groundbreaking included remarks by Eugene Mayor Lucy, Bethel School District Supt. Chris Parra, SVDP Board Chair Louise Westling, SVDP executive director Terry McDonald, and others.

On any given night, nearly 400 teens struggle to find a place to sleep in those areas.

Many of them end up couch-surfing with acquaintances and some end up on the streets where they are vulnerable to violence, drugs and a thriving human-trafficking trade the along the I-5 corridor.

"We help students as much as we can, provide them some services but one thing that we cannot provide students is a place to sleep at night,” said Parra.

Parra says she hopes the church turned youth house will be a model for communities across the nation.

Officials are hoping to open the doors to the first set of girls by the end of the year.

In addition to housing, the girls will get a mentor, caseworker, and access to school officials so they can plan our their life and graduate.

The more the community donates toward this project, the more money St. Vincent De Paul has to do more projects like this.

Donors can contribute on line through St. Vinnie's secure website at []

You can also send mail checks designated "Youth House" to SVDP, 2890 Chad Drive, Eugene, OR 97408, or call Development Director Paula Berry at (541) 743-7144.

To request a presentation about this project or for more information, call Paul Neville at (541) 743-7121 or email

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