Rhea Herns was close to going hungry.
With her University of Akron tuition, apartment bills and other expenses, food wasn’t an end that could be met.
“I wasn’t able to feed myself,” the 20-year-old said. “But if you’re willing to ask for help, you’ve got to get that help.”
Herns took her own advice by contacting Cassie Durdel, outreach coordinator for Shelter Care: A Residential Program for Children.
“I met Cassie, told her what I was doing,” Herns said. “She helped me find rides to work, rides home, health insurance and food for my house.”
Now, Durdel is hoping Shelter Care’s newest project can help out more young people like Harns.
On July 1, the organization will debut its first Drop-In Center at 847 Crouse St. in Akron.
The church rectory-turned shelter will offer services to teens 16 to 21 who need a safe place to stay for a couple hours.
“This will be a central location,” Durdel said. “We don’t have to know where to find them. They can find us.”
Durdel and her staff will be present at the site during open hours. The multi-storied house has a kitchen, TV room, laundry room and bathrooms for the teens to use.
Upon arrival, the teens will sign in to gain access to the facilities.
“This is going to be a safe place for them to be,” Durdel said. “They know they can trust these people.”
Most of the teens Durdel expects to see are homeless and “might not have a quarter to their name.”
Knowing that, Durdel hopes a hot shower, meal and laundry services will help the teens out.
“I want them to think ‘I’m not alone in this. People care and want to help me,’” she said. “It’s their place. They’re going to take care of it and decide what the rules are.”
The Drop-In Center will work hand-in-hand with one of Herns’ own rules. “No one is above getting help or aid,” Herns said. “You could come from a stay-at-home family, well-off, but there’s always something you can gain.” And that gain extends to more than a place to get washed up.
While at the Drop-In Center, staff is on-hand to sign teens up for food assistance, Medicaid, school/work bus passes and counseling.
“If at all possible, we want to make these teens into productive citizens,” said Mike Radebaugh, one of the Drop-In Center’s supervisors. “Our goal and prayer is that they know there is a safe place for them.”
Each night when the Drop-In Center closes, the staff doesn’t send the teens away empty-handed.
Blankets, snacks and toiletries are available for teens to take with them. “If they have nothing to their name, now they’ll have this,” Durdel said. “It’s not an overnight shelter, but we’ll try to refer them to places that are.”
Now that services like the Drop-In Center are available, Durdel hopes teens take Herns’ lead—asking for help.
“These youths want our help. That’s the best part about it,” Durdel said. “I’ve seen them change. I’ve seen them get jobs, and apartments and go to school. They said ‘I didn’t think I’d do it.’ But they did.”
The Drop-In Center opens July 1. The hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 4 to 8 p.m, Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Monday noon to 4 p.m. by appointment only. Teens 16 and 17 require parental permission to use the Drop-In Center.
For more information, call (330) 253-7632.