In 1987, Dr. Carol Christopher was answering calls for a community crisis line when she received a call from a 12 year old girl from a rural area miles from Monroe, LA. Crisis call volunteers listened and/or made referrals but couldn’t go out to meet or help a caller. Dr. Christopher found herself in a situation where she was ready and willing to help but couldn’t. Even if she could go out to meet this young person, where would she take her? And where could a young person who was neither adjudicated nor a lawbreaker get immediate help, much less shelter?
In 1990, Dr. Christopher answered this question with the establishment of Christopher Youth Center, Inc. as the first official Safe Place program in Louisiana. She managed to obtain a contract with a local shelter to reserve two beds for youth requiring shelter through Christopher Youth Center.
In 1994, Our House, Inc. opened its own shelter for runaway and homeless youth 11 – 17 years old and was licensed by the Department of Social Services for 6 beds.
A growing need for alternatives for young adults 18 – 21 years old who were too old for the youth shelter but not yet ready to be on their own led to the development of a transitional living program in 1999.
In an effort to help runaway and homeless youth in their difficult situations, Christopher Youth Center management sponsored initiatives to obtain the passage of the “72 hour Safe Harbor Law for Runaways” ACT 1087 (Amendment to R.S. #1353) in the state of Louisiana. This act guarantees 72 hours of safety and services to any non-offending runaway or homeless youth who seeks refuge at a LA licensed shelter for youth.
Presently, Christopher Youth Center, Inc. (formerly known as Our House) has over 50 safe place sites in Northeast Louisiana. The Basic Center Program (emergency youth shelter) has a capacity of 11 beds and the Transitional Living Program can house up to 20 young adults and their accompanying small children at any point in time. Christopher Youth Center facilitates multiple programs designed to strengthen the youth and families in our community.