Dallas homeless youth shelter expands hours thanks to $215K grant

Monday is back to school for all Dallas ISD campuses that did not start on an early calendar.

It is a busy time for teachers, staff and also for non-profits that provide essential services for homeless students.

One non-profit that assists homeless students is expanding its outreach, thanks to a sizable grant.

The need is great. Sadly, some parents have dropped off their kids at the Fannie C. Harris Youth Center in Dallas and never returned. 

Right now, drop-in center hours are from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Friday. 

But thanks to a $215,000 grant from the Moody Foundation, the center can now expand to stay open 24/7.

Jorge Baldor has seen the struggle firsthand as the founder of After8toEducate. 

The drop-in center located at the Fannie C. Harris Youth Center in Dallas provides homeless youth access to immediate supportive services.

They are necessities many young people would otherwise take for granted, such as laundry facilities, showers, clothing items, hot meals and Wi-Fi access for homework.

"They’re living sometimes under a bridge a car and still making the effort to go to school," Baldor said. "So as a community, I think it’s important that we come together and support them."

On Friday — which coincided with international Youth Day — the organization hosted an open house to showcase services and celebrate the center's first birthday.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Moody Foundation, the drop-in center in the coming weeks will turn into a 24/7 resource for homeless youth in Dallas.

The demand is sobering. Last year alone, 1,300 homeless young people received assistance.

"It takes about four or five visits before they really open up and feel comfortable and trust enough to really say what their needs are," Baldor said. "And then we can match them up with the case manager who can help them to do that."

Next door is a 35-bed youth shelter operated independently and specifically for homeless students who are enrolled in Dallas ISD. 

The students can live there while attending school up to age 21. Transportation to and from campus is also provided. There's a massive multi-use area on the first floor.

Shannon Browning is with Downtown Dallas Inc. The group's homeless outreach team goes out into the city in search of unsheltered residents in need. Some are minors.

"We do try to educate and inform them of the services that’s available for them," he said.

A Dallas police officer accompanies them so teens in need of services can get transported to places like the drop-in center for help.

"It may take multiple tries, but we will do what we need to do to try to find them placement," Browning said. "It’s really about building the trust with these kids they’re out there trying to survive."

When homeless students go to the drop-in center for the first time, there is an in-take process. That way, counselors can identify their needs and find the right resources for them.