Kristi's Kids

Jun 28, 2013 8:00 PM by Kristi Tedesco

New space for displaced teens

TUCSON - More and more teenagers are being removed from their homes by Child Protective Services and many have nowhere to go.

There's a critical shortage of foster homes all over Arizona, and that impacts adolescents more than the little ones.

A Tucson shelter is splitting walls trying to make room but it's not enough.

That's why the Reunion House is now expanding. Kristi's Kids got a tour and we spoke with a former resident.

"I don't know how I would've acted being 17 or 16 years old on the street."

Hannah Ordaz is 20 now and lives in her own apartment. But her childhood was far from settled. She was in the C.P.S. system most of her life and even tried living with her godparents.

"Then I end up leaving their house because there were just complications."

With no place to go, at age 16, Hannah wound up at Reunion House.

And it's not the fault of the children who come to Reunion House. They've been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. Some have been abandoned.

"This kitchen accommodates nine youth for three meals a day and snacks. As you can see it's very small. Challenging to cook in for that many people," says Laurie Mazerbo, Program Director at Our Family Services which runs Reunion House.

There's only one washer and dryer for the entire house.

"They're pretty much going all day and all night."

And there's only one computer station for homework, located in the family room, which also serves as the dining room.

"We have to pull out a card table to accommodate everybody at this point," Laurie explains.

Bedrooms are cramped with two or three per room.

Just imagine what it's like in the morning getting ready for school with four or five teenagers sharing a single bathroom.

But there's good news. With community donations, a brand new shelter is opening in July.

"And our desire is to provide a safe secure area for them," says Patti Caldwell, Executive Director of Our Family Services. "A safe secure place that they can stay that they feel at home for the time that they're with us. And that they can see that someone cares about them."

Reunion House will soon take 20 kids at a time-serving about 400 each year.

With a larger kitchen they will have the space to teach clients important life skills such as cooking.

And it will be far less chaotic for the kids to get ready in the morning.

"Each of the pods has both a toilet room with a sink on either side. And they have a shower and dressing room," says Patti.

There is also more room for several computer stations, a separate space for recreation and a dining area where they all can take meals in comfort.

An amazing investment, if you ask Hannah. If it wasn't for Reunion House she tells Kristi's Kids she's convinced, even years later, she would be living on the streets or in jail.

They still need another $300,000 to make the transition.
Click here to visit Our Family Services if you would like to help.


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