A long-term housing facility for homeless teenagers who are focused on furthering their education could be open as soon as August. The Empowerment Academy will be able to house 27 students, and officials said it could be full within two months of opening. The EA board is also launching a major fundraising campaign, saying the money is an investment in the future of the community.
The Empowerment Academy will be located at the corner of Ohio Street and Hanning Lane near English Park. On Thursday, the EA board held a “Raise the Roof” event to show off the construction progress as well as highlight the need for community involvement.
Corey King, a Kentucky State Trooper who also serves as the communications director for Empowerment Academy, said the goal of the Academy is to empower students to reach their educational potential by providing safe, long-term housing with access to basic necessities and life skills training.
King said it’s estimated that as many as 400 students in Daviess County are considered homeless by federal standards.
However, not everyone can be accepted into the Academy. To start, the EA will only accept students that are 18 years old. They must also be actively trying to further their education or get into the workforce. King also stressed that it’s not an emergency shelter but is long-term housing for students.
“You probably wonder why 18. Believe it or not, there are parents that will kick their kids out, or maybe they fall on misfortunes and now they find themselves couch hopping from location to location,” King said. “That is not a stable living, and not conducive for a good educational environment. We work closely with the school counselors who can tell us which students are the ones who have the heart and want to continue on with their education.”
King said living in a safe and stable environment is an integral part of a student’s life.
“Whenever a young person is worried about where they’re gonna get their next meal or lay their head down at night, it most certainly can hinder their goals,” King said. “We don’t just provide room and board to eligible students. Whenever a student is accepted into our program, they are warmly welcomed by our team of professionals that find their passion and help them for their bright future. Our long-term care extends well beyond the classroom. Our ultimate goal is to set these students up with the tools they need to succeed on their journey.”
King said as long as the students are continuing with their education or entering into the workforce, they are welcome to stay.
He added that the EA board is in the process of vetting “home parents” that have applied to help the cause.
“We’re finding a great pool of applicants to be a house mom, and those parents are great therapists and have great potential in terms of being role models to these kids,” King said. “But also at the age of 18, we want the students to develop their autonomy and make it more like a dorm setting — give them that freedom but also have those strict rules to maintain the integrity of this program.”
EA board chair Rhonda Davis said this project has been in the works for years and she’s glad to finally see the walls going up on the facility.
“This is kind of a dream come true for us. It’s a labor of love,” Davis said. “The community has come together and donated and supported this group for many years. I’m looking forward to … having a place to house some of the homeless teenagers in our community.”
Davis said even though she’s been involved with the Academy, it’s still surprising to realize how many people need the services.
“Just from some of the organizations I’ve talked to in the last probably 6 months, I know that we could have had at least a dozen referrals this year,” Davi said. “That’s just the ones I know of.”
That’s a big reason why Davis and the rest of the board is making a big push for the community to get involved in helping fund the Academy.
“We’re raising money, but we’re also raising young people to be the future of this community,” Davis said. “I think that’s the most important part to remember, is that every dollar that we raise is going to help somebody hopefully be a productive member of our community and go on to do great things. We just want to show them we care.”
King said they are hopeful that the building will be complete and ready to utilize by August. Like Davis, King stressed the importance of community support.
“There’s not a better way to serve your own community than helping homeless students,” he said. “When you look at the eyes of these kids who are hopping from house to house and still trying to maintain their scores, it’ll break your heart. That is one of the best things that we can do to give back, is to serve our next generation of kids who are going to ultimately be taking care of us in the future.”
For more information on the Empowerment Academy or to donate, click here.