Severe cold weather leads to flooding at youth shelter

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The recent severe cold weather in Pawhuska and Osage County rendered the shelter operated by Youth Services of Osage County temporarily inoperable.

The Youth Services building, located on McKenzie Road in Pawhuska just north of the municipal fitness center, is normally home to up to a half-dozen youth who may have been referred by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, or even by their parents. The building is not a detention center, nor is it part of any state or local government detention operation.

Youth Services of Osage County is a private, nonprofit organization that uses a building constructed nearly two decades ago with the financial support of Carl and Virginia Short. The building is owned by Pawhuska city government, and Youth Services has a contract with the state through the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs and its Community Based Services Division.

Amanda Howerton, executive director of Youth Services of Osage County, and Jeanie Howerton, the shelter manager, talked last week with the Journal-Capital about serious weather-related damage to the shelter building Feb. 15. Amanda and Jeanie Howerton said a sprinkler system line burst and water poured into the large common room of the facility. There was also flooding elsewhere in the building.

The flooding was so severe that the youths who were being housed there had to be immediately relocated, Amanda Howerton said. The current inoperability of the shelter is a violation of the organization’s contract with the state, she said. While state officials have been understanding about the circumstances, they are also anxious about when Youth Services of Osage County can resume providing services, she said.

Amanda Howerton said Youth Services is licensed for 10 youths, but its current state contract provides sufficient funding to serve six. Funding alternatives to be able to serve more clients are being explored, she said.

When the Journal-Capital spoke Feb. 24 with Amanda and Jeanie Howerton, they did not have a full cost estimate for the repairs and other work that will be necessary to return the youth shelter to operation. Amanda Howerton said the insurance provided by city government will help, but the organization is looking in all directions for assistance of all kinds, financial and otherwise.

Courtesy Care Cleaning & Restoration of Bartlesville had done an initial cleanup, but the building was still badly damaged and in need of further cleanup. Furniture and clothing and bedding will need to be replaced, the Howertons said.

Amanda Howerton said she was particularly thankful for the helpful role Interim City Manager Tonya Bright was playing.

“Tonya has been amazing throughout this,” she said.

Items for which Youth Services of Osage County has put out a call on the Internet include: twin comforters, twin sheets, pillow cases, bath towels, wash cloths, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, body wash for girls and boys, toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss, deodorant for girls and boys, hair brushes, combs, hand soap, tampons and pads of all sizes, clothes in youth sizes, and new underwear, socks and bras in all sizes.