New Avenues for Youth to open new opportunity lab for at-risk youth in Rockwood

Developments in the Rockwood urban renewal area are coming online, by and for the neighborhood: the City of Gresham, nonprofits and the private sector are working together on a group of projects, one specifically aimed at helping at-risk youth.

The Youth Opportunity Center, a development by New Avenues for Youth, is under construction at 16519 S.E. Stark St.

The two-floor building will help serve youth ages 14-24 to prevent and exit street life with a holistic approach that includes data-driven evaluations.

The new center is designed to be a local hub delivering drop-in services, education, job training, LGBTQA+ youth support, housing support and support for youth transitioning from foster care.SUBMITTED: NEW AVENUES FOR YOUTH, COURTESY HOLST ARCHITECTURE - Plans for the two-story building include a service delivery system that leverages a downtown infrastructure to reach marginalized youth experiencing or at risk of homelessness

It broke ground in May 2017. The general contractor is Colas Construction, with designs by Holst Architecture.

For the past twenty years, New Avenues for Youth has addressed youth homelessness and its root causes, delivering support and resources that enable foster, at-risk and homeless youth to overcome barriers and realize their potential. Since 1997, the organization has impacted the lives of over 20,000 youth through services that address basic needs and safety, provide opportunities for education and career, and help youth achieve self-sufficiency.

In Portland, New Avenues used to serve only the downtown core, so the expansion coincides with the program's 20th anniversary this year.

As for the location selection, New Avenues is extending its reach into East Multnomah County to evolve with Portland's shifting demographics. Here the new center will create a service delivery system that leverages a downtown infrastructure to reach marginalized youth experiencing or at risk of homelessness, particularly those from communities of color, immigrant and refugee communities, commercially sexually exploited children, LGBTQA+ youth and youth in foster care.

"Our program site is co-located on the new campus of the Boys & Girls Club in the Rockwood area — they are finalizing their facility this week and launching their program on Monday," said Angela Pratt, development manager for New Avenues. "We hope to have our program site finished in two more months."

The future Rockwood Boys & Girls Club's kitchen and accompanying commons space is planned to serve more than 75,000 hot meals each year to local children. Elementary schools in the area report that 94 percent of their students live below the federal poverty level, which qualifies them for free or reduced lunch. This makes the kitchen an important function of the new club, which is slated to open this fall.


"As for development costs, we are still finalizing our budget and I'm not at liberty to share at this time," said Pratt.

The site was formerly a 7 Dees garden center.

The Gresham Redevelopment Commission purchased the 3.8-acre Drake's 7 Dees property located at 16519 S.E. Stark St. and 312 S.E. 165th Ave. to create several opportunities for youth in the neighborhood.

On Nov. 5, 2015, Open School broke ground on a new 7th-12th grade college prep school. Starting with a class of 46 in 2014, the school will serve 270 students from six school districts by 2019. Development is underway for a new Boys & Girls Club on the site. The new Club facility will be approximately 30,000 square feet occupying 1.7 acres, according to the City of Gresham.

The Youth Opportunity Center project is funded in part by New Avenues' four-year 2020 Campaign, which aims to raise $1 million for the East County expansion by June 2020, along with the Bank of America's Neighborhood Builders Grant.

The campaign includes the opening of the new center, using $50,000 from the campaign.

Local real estate company Windermere Stellar pledged to support underserved youths in East Multnomah County with a $100,000 donation that will benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland's new Rockwood location and New Avenues for Youth.

The donation will be split between both organizations, with New Avenues using it to expand into the new facility in Rockwood and Boys & Girls funding an industrial kitchen. The grant will be paid out over two years.

The center is also supported by the Bank of America's Neighborhood Builders Program created in 2004, which helps nonprofits with tools and resources for strategic planning including succession strategy, economic advice and enhancing funding opportunities.

Through the Neighborhood Builders program, the bank provides one local nonprofit each year with a unique combination of leadership training, $200,000 in flexible funding, volunteer support and a network of peer organizations across the country.

Over the past 13 years, Bank of America has invested more than $180 million in 900 nonprofit organizations across the country — and provided leadership resources and training to nearly 2,000 nonprofit leaders — and the program has been recognized as the nation's largest philanthropic investment in nonprofit leadership development.

By Jules Rogers
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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