Youth shelter closed until further notice

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

A member of the board of Youth Services of Osage County said last week that the nonprofit agency’s youth shelter at 1616 McKenzie in Pawhuska is closed until further notice.

The youth shelter had to be evacuated and closed in February as a result of damage to the building caused by prolonged subfreezing weather. The sprinkler system burst and caused flooding Feb. 1. Since that time, the shelter has lost its director and has no prospects for finding a new director, board member Becky Blackwood said.

As Youth Services no longer has a director or counselor, its future is uncertain and no public donations to the organization are needed at this time, Blackwood said.

“The board feels terrible about it and we would like to keep it running,” Blackwood said. Services for youth will be available through facilities in adjoining counties, she said.

Blackwood indicated that future possibilities for the Pawhuska shelter would include someone coming in who could write the grant applications for funding to resume helping clients, or the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs working to arrange for an organization in an adjoining county to come in and run it.

“OJA might decide they need something in Osage County,” Blackwood said.

Lorrie Hennesy, interim police chief in Pawhuska, said she is willing under the circumstances to help parents reach out to the state Department of Human Services for guidance.

Hennesy said that shelters for juveniles are generally full right now.

“A lot of the shelters are full right now. We also need this shelter open,” Hennesy said. “I hope they get it back open.”

Hennesy, who has worked as a school resource officer, said Pawhuska also needs additional resources for youth.

“The juvenile system is out of control,” Hennesy said.

Tonya Bright, interim Pawhuska city manager, said the process of getting the shelter building repaired is underway, but how soon it will be possible to use the building to resume providing services to youth and their families is out of her hands.

The building is the property of Pawhuska city government, but that is where the city's authority stops.

A contractor had looked at the building and indicated a willingness to do the repair work, Bright said. An additional break had since been discovered in the sprinkler system. That will need to be repaired, as well, and Bright said it might be necessary for the insurance adjuster and the contractor to have another look at the building.

“It’s not just sitting there,” Bright said of the Youth Services building.