WACO, TX — The Dobey Drop-in Center for at-risk and homeless youth in Waco is set to open its doors Monday March 1st from 8am to 5pm.
Dobey, which stands for Drop-In Bolstering Engagement for Youth Adults, is located at 2111 Austin Ave. and will be for youth ages 18-24.
"We haven't had that safe space for the transition age youth that are in that young adult hood stage that get out of high school and they're like what do I do next?" says Nicole Wiscombe, the Program Director for the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program.
At Dobey, youth will have access to computers and internet, areas to hang out, read a book and opportunities for counseling to support mental health.
"We want to set them up for success, not just to survive but to thrive for life. They're not alone, we're here, there's a team of people who are rooting for them and I believe everyone in life needs a cheerleader," says Natalie McClure, a Peer Specialist with Dobey.
It also is a place for youth to grab a meal, shower, wash their clothes and find resources on how to prepare for adulthood.
"Things like mattresses and couches and pots and pans and towels and sheets, those things that when you have your very first apartment that you need," says Wiscombe.
Dobey is a product of the 1.7 million dollar HUD grant awarded to Klaras Center for Families, and along with the Heart of Texas MHMR.
A portion of the money from the grant will go into utilities, as well as hiring staff which include case managers like McClure, who was once a homeless youth herself.
"Sometimes there's some challenges with talking to someone who has never experienced it versus someone who has, it opens that door of like 'oh you've been here but you're on the other side so tell me how you got there,'" says McClure.
According to Klaras Center, from 2018-2019 there were at least 131 young adults in Central Texas ages 16-24 that were found to be at risk of or homeless.
It's a number staff hopes to diminish come opening day.
"I'm just excited about the range of possibilities and ultimately continuing to address the needs of young adults that are struggling with homelessness and housing insecurities," says Ron Kimbell, the Division Director for Klaras Center for Families, Heart of Texas Region MHMR.
Staff says the building is nearly 100 years old so if you're repair savvy, they're looking for people to help, as well as donations such as toiletries and supplies for young adults.