In 2009 we had a vision to begin an outreach to the youth 12-20 years of age in our city that were homeless, at-risk, disadvantaged, and vulnerable. As we began we had opportunities to share the vision. JOE’s soon had a small Board of Directors, our 501c3 nonprofit status was approved and services began. At first we were located on NW 6th Street; however, it was not in the best location for youth to utilize because of the distance from town. So we chose to close the facility and do a mobile outreach, going where the youth were active and in need. JOE’s went to Riverside Park, to different locations downtown, and the parking lot of River Valley Community Church. It was at these locations that the ministry took off. Over the years we have consistently been out with the youth on the street and have become a place they can come and find adults who genuinely care about them. Relationships were formed and we began to see the lives of some of those we served begin to improve. Not all, but some began to make better choices. JOE’s was a safe place for them to be themselves, be vulnerable and receive support. Some of the youth currently attending are being mentored and meet regularly with our staff.
During the last few years we knew JOE’s needed to establish a reliable location since the mobile activities could not fulfill ongoing youth needs. In July 2015, after several attempts, we found a great location at 130 SE ‘K’ St. JOE’s staff and volunteers have worked hard to make this a healthy environment and a safe stable place for youth, and we are excited to see how the ministry to the youth of our community will continue to grow.
Within the new facility we are able to serve meals out of our kitchen/dining room. There is a store available for them to obtain needed items for free (clothes, hygiene products, shoes, and food). We offer couches to sit and relax, ping pong tables and other table games; a study/computer room for schoolwork, research, job search; a washer and dryer; and a safe place for them to be. We are located in the center of town within easy walking distance for the youth we serve.