The criteria for purchasing a home usually surrounds the school districts, neighborhood safety, or community appeal.
For Sheri Messer, the director of “City House” in Collin County, her list of must have’s is slightly different.
City House is a non-profit organization focused on a specific group: homeless youth and young adults. Messer runs the outreach center, the emergency shelter for children under 17, and the girls’ homes.
“What we need now is a boys home,” said Messer, who will be on the real estate hunt for the rest of the week until she finds one. “I would like it be five bedrooms. Right now there is a wait list for teen boys. They come into our outreach center, they use our facility, we give them food, they can use the computer, we give them toiletries, but when the center closes they have to leave."
"We know they are out there somewhere sleeping on the street. It just breaks my heart,” she said.
Currently, the youth emergency shelter in Collin County is full. City House is the only organization in the area that specifically houses teens.
According to Messer the children are either abused, neglected, or rejected by their family.
“We serve a great deal of the LGBT community. When their parents find out, some of them can’t deal with it and they will just kick them out. So we welcome them in,” she said.
Messer has been chipping away at homelessness in Collin County for years, but says there is another stronghold that stands in the way of real progress.
“Denial is a huge problem," Messer explained. "Some people here, not all, but some are convinced that we don’t have a problem with homelessness. That's because there is growth here and affluence, homes with community pools, and walking trails, that we don’t have a problem. We do."
"People say, ‘where, I don’t see it?’ and I tell them it will look different than homelessness in Dallas County. Our teens blend in. A lot of them find places inside to congregate before it gets dark and stores close. During the day, you won’t find them huddled together on the street corner, but they are there. You just have to know what to look for. Pretending there isn’t a problem, when there is, can be hurt the chances of someone getting real help,” she said.
According to the most recent reports, From 2016-2017 the unsheltered teen population increased 55 percent in Collin County. Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance uncovered an increase in unaccompanied unsheltered homeless teens by 57 percent.
“We know that if we can get to that young man or young woman, we can really impact their lives and help them change," said Messer. "Our services go far beyond physical needs. We provide counseling, help with job placement, if teens need to get their id’s we can help with that."
City House has hundreds of volunteers. If you would like to volunteer or find out information about their services and upcoming fundraising events, head to their website.