With the help of a local family and grant funding, Bloom House Youth Services, Inc. is preparing to open its doors to homeless youth a little more than two years after announcing its formation.
A 501(c)(3) organization formed in 2019, Bloom House will address youth homelessness in an inclusive space, providing support through access to case management, mental health care and life skills education to ensure an empowered future.
On Jan. 1, 2022, the shelter will begin operations in the former SOS shelter, 301 W. 11th Ave.
“We had our grant awarded from the Federal Youth Service Bureau for 100% of what we asked for — $150,000,” said president and founder Clara Corn. “We are so excited. The first thing we started to do was look for a space to rent.”
It was while looking for properties that Corn met Carlos Garate. A realtor with EK Real Estate, Garate showed the group a couple commercial properties that might have worked temporarily. Then, he started talking to them more about Bloom House.
“They started telling me their story of what they were going to do,” he said. “I got to spend more time with them and listen to their dream, what they were talking about long-term and that’s when I remembered our agency had the SOS shelter house. I mentioned it to them and they just lit up.”
The grant Bloom House received wouldn’t allow for the purchase of a building, but they could use funds to rent. That’s when Garate came up with a “spur of the moment” plan: purchase the house himself and rent it out to Bloom House at a rate the organization could afford.
“When I told my wife [Amy Garate] about this great idea, it wasn’t really asking,” he said with a laugh. “It was more or less saying, ‘This is what we’re doing.’ She jumped right in and she was all-in, 100% on board.”
Garate said it was an easy decision because it aligned with the mission of the AceItUp Fund — the nonprofit the couple created following the death of their 13-year-old son, Ace Garate, in 2019.
“I’ve been blessed enough in real estate here in town, when the stuff happened with my son, the community rallied around me,” Garate said. “Not only just donations and stuff like that, but it was more of a, ‘I’m going to use you as my realtor to buy this house.’ I was able to get myself in the position to where I could afford to be able to buy a house and be able to help them out.”
Corn said that’s why the shelter will be called Bloom House Youth Services at Ace’s Place.
“We are so grateful to Carlos and Amy; it’s just the perfect fit,” Corn continued. “Carlos had the idea of naming the building ‘Ace’s Place’ and asked us what we thought about it and we were already looking at ways to honor Ace, because it really goes along with the mission of helping kids who are in need.”
Ace, Carlos Garate said, was the type of kid who loved to help other people.
“He was always at school helping kids who didn’t have any friends,” he said. “He gave them this little space to kind of escape from the harshest reality, and that’s kind of what we’re going to help with. Bloom House is doing all of that stuff.”
Corn said Bloom House’s services will include 24/7 drop-in services for youths ages 14-18, whether they are runaway or homeless. The shelter will also be the only basic center located in the state. The basic center program is a program through the FYSB that seeks to reunite young people with their families or locate appropriate alternative placements, while meeting the immediate needs of runaway and homeless youth under 18 years of age.
“Our services go up to 21 days, so our youth will have a bed up to 21 days in their own bedroom,” Corn said. “Our intent is to make sure the homeless youth has safety and security and that sense of autonomy. Having your own space is really important.”
Meals, therapy services, case management, showers, laundry services and other basic services will be provided. A live-in onsite shelter manager will be available 24/7 as well, even if they are off the clock. Corn said she is in the process of reaching out to all of the state universities for information about internship and volunteering opportunities at the shelter.
Corn said the grant does require some community match and Bloom House Youth Services would not be able to operate without the generous support of the community.
“I cannot overstate how much contributions count,” she said. “Every little bit counts and if people want to donate to use, they can find the ‘support’ page on our website and they can donate through PayPal. Or, if they want to donate a check, they can. We’re thinking about ways we can really thank our larger donors who have been just so incredible with helping to make this happen.”
Garate said he and Amy are “100% on board” with helping Corn and the rest of the Bloom House board of directors get to the finish line.
“Every town needs something like this and this is going to be the only place in all of Kansas,” Garate said. “It’s definitely something that hopefully grows and we can keep partnering with Bloom House. Hopefully we can get on in every major city.”
For more information about Bloom House and to learn how to support its mission, visit www.bloomhouseks.org.