We want to help them to reach self-sufficiency. There is room in this house and there is room in our hearts.

SALT LAKE CITY — Homeless young men soon will have a new place to stay in Salt Lake County.

Volunteers of America purchased a house at 556 S. 500 East in Salt Lake City Thursday with the help of federal and city grants and private donations. The home is needed because the number of homeless young people has risen 160 percent over the past five years in Salt Lake County, according to Volunteers of America.

In just the last year, the agency has served more than 1,000 homeless young men.

"We want to help them to reach self-sufficiency. There is room in this house and there is room in our hearts," said Kathy Bray, president and CEO of Volunteers of America.

The home will house 14 young men, ages 18 to 24, for anywhere from a few months to a year. They will have 24-hour supervision, school progress monitoring, tutoring and employment services, plus services to address emotional, physical and behavioral needs. Staff members will provide continuing support to six additional months after the young men leave the home.

The transitional home needs renovation before young men can begin staying there, hopefully by next spring or summer. Volunteers of America still needs to raise $890,000 to complete the project. 

Donors and advocates stepped forward to offer support Thursday.

John Netto once was a homeless teenager.

"I have compassion for their suffering, for sure,” said John Netto, who once was a homeless teenager. “I know that somewhere, one of the boys here, or two or three — who knows — someday will come back and do this for the boys that come after them."

He and his wife, the Rev. Catherine Putnam-Netto, are among the donors along with the LGBT Community Endowment Fund and Bruce Bastian.

His gift is from the B.W. Bastian Foundation. "I think it's (sad), almost sinful, that there are homeless youth. I believe everybody should have at least a chance to pursue life and happiness," he said.

Because of these donations, Volunteers of America has created a matching gift program.

Community advocate Pamela Atkinson added, "This will provide stability for many of our youth who have been thrown out of their own homes. Imagine being thrown out, kicked out, and told never to come back again." 

A couple of blocks away, at 718 S. 600 East, is a house for homeless young women. It's been in operation for more than 10 years.

Comment on this story

That facility now houses up to seven young women for 18 months or until they turn 20 years old. They have their own bedrooms, but share bathrooms, a kitchen where they make their own meals, and a living room. They share housekeeping responsibilities and are grateful for the facility.

"I got kicked out of my house in March and I was living with friends so I could graduate high school,” said resident Alexis Ivie. “ This is very good support for me. My next step is a job and an apartment on my own."

E-mail: cmikita@desnews.com