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Davis Journal

Teen Living Center gives homeless students safe place to stay

Nov 02, 2023 10:05AM ● By Becky Ginos
City officials, Davis School District administrators, board members and members of the Davis Education Foundation turn dirt at the site of the future Teen Living Center. Photo by Roger V. Tuttle

City officials, Davis School District administrators, board members and members of the Davis Education Foundation turn dirt at the site of the future Teen Living Center. Photo by Roger V. Tuttle

LAYTON—After two years of hard work and planning, the Davis Education Foundation broke ground on Monday for a new Teen Living Center (TLC) that will give homeless students a place to stay while providing resources to keep them on track for graduation. The 10,000 square foot, 16 bed facility is located at 75 N. Fort Lane and is just east of Layton High School.

“What an exciting day,” said Davis Education Foundation Executive Director, Jodi Lunt. “Because of you leaning in we have a place that we’ve dreamed of.”

Lunt said a beautiful woman walked into her office about two years ago. “She knew about the Teen Centers (in the high schools) but she asked ‘where do they sleep?’”

“I did walk into Jodi’s office,” said Jill Bergman, who with her husband Rod donated the money to buy the property. “At that time there were 600 homeless kids, now there are more than 1,200.”

Bergman said she asked Jodi where they slept and she said in cars, empty buildings and some couch surf. “I thought I can’t let that be. So with hard work, enthusiasm and tenacity we are here today.”

Heavenly Father wants them to have some place warm, safe and comfortable, she said. “I’m so grateful that a dream of mine is a reality.”

Switchpoint Community Resource Center, a third-party nonprofit, will provide operations for the center. “This project is so unique,” said Carol Hollowell, Switchpoint Executive Director. “To break the cycle of adult homelessness we have to help them when they’re young. We’re all ridiculously excited about the project. We want to make people’s lives better.

“We have 19 kids who are homeless,” said Jennifer Christensen, LCSW at Mountain High. “We give them resources during the day but don’t always know where to send them (after school), it’s heartbreaking. It’s amazing now that they’ll have somewhere they can go.”

There are 30-40 kids that are homeless at Layton High, said Lisa Glassey, Teen Center Coordinator at Layton High. “This could have been lifesaving for students in the past. There are 40-50 kids a day who come through the Teen Center and 180-200 a week. They come in for mental health, food, showers, there are various reasons they come in. That’s what it’s built for and that’s helping kids.”

A rendering of the Teen Living Center that will be built in Layton. Courtesy of the Davis Education Foundation

Lunt has been passionate about helping at risk and homeless teens since she first started her career as an educator. “I’m in my 34th year of teaching,” she said. “I started at Ogden High School and I was assigned to work with students in crisis. I was assisting the most vulnerable students, some with incarcerated parents and other risk factors. You can’t teach young people if they’re hungry, unsafe or lack vital resources.”

Lunt said this is close to her heart. “That leads my work. It’s very personal to me. I knew they had incredible academic potential but they fell short because they didn’t have their basic needs. We’re removing barriers so they can reach their full potential.”

Young people need wrap-around services that meet them where they’re at, she said. “This building gives them the tools and resources to be successful, contributing adults.”

Students entering the center must complete a referral process through a steering committee. “They review the application to find the most vulnerable who are prepared for the experience,” said Lunt. “No student will be removed until they are ready.”

If there becomes a wait list, Lunt said they would consider building facilities as needed. “We’re taking a cautious approach. This building is proof of concept. We’ll get valuable information before we build multiple centers. It’s clear in my mind that we need a building in south Davis so it’s more accessible to those students.”

Jill (Bergman) is an amazing woman, said Lunt. “She is the salt of the earth. She wants to see children on earth be taken care of. We’re fortunate to have Jill and Rod Bergman investing in children.”

They’re gentle, kind, compassionate, empathetic people, she said. “I’m humbled by them and they ask zero in return for it.”

The anticipated completion date for the center is June 2024, said Lunt. “It will be ready when school starts next year. The teen centers are open in the summer so we’ll begin to identify those students in April and May. We’ll put young people in on the day it’s ready.”

Anyone who wants to get involved can go to the website and contribute, said Lunt. “Nothing is too small to make a difference in the life of a teen.”