“We’re excited,” said Holly Chavez, Board Chairman for H2 ASSF. “We never doubted we’d get here. We are nothing if not persistent.”
After plans to renovate an old city building proved to be too costly, the city reached out to Belen Consolidated Schools to help the non-profit. H2 ASSF just signed the Memorandum of Understanding to turn a district building into a teen center.
“We have a big homeless community of teens here,” said Chavez. “If we can get them to a safe space, maybe they don’t become drug-addicted or gang involved.”
Chavez said it’s a first of its kind for Belen because of its community-based model, which another board member, Noelle Chavez, has experience in and has helped develop in other communities.
With the help of about 30 community partners volunteering their time and services, the teen center will offer everything from food and hygiene products to cooking and workout classes, mentoring, and behavioral health services. The non-profit said juvenile probation services have also expressed interest in coming to spend time with youth.
“The idea is that the kid can go in there, and they’re going in for recreation and fun, that will all be part of it. But if there’s a problem, if there’s issues at home, there will be people, there will be resources there,” said Chavez.
The non-profit will get the keys to the building on July 1. Noelle said in the meantime, they are drafting up policies for the center and will soon work on getting the building ready to open.
“Our biggest hope is that we can help these kids so that they don’t become police-involved, gang-involved, drug-involved,” said Chavez. “Our business deals with kids that are at risk of police contact or police involvement, and so we’re kind of hoping we work our way out of a job.”
Noelle said they expect to serve 30-50 kids at any given time. The center will become a bus stop for Belen Consolidated Schools, so they hope to have the facility up and running by August.