Marshaling Community Resources to Help Teens
By Gillian Frew
For Scott Bieber, chief of police for the city of Walla Walla, the rationale behind building The Hub on 3rd was simple: House more resources for struggling teens under one roof. "That's why I like this whole concept," he said, referring to the new structure, located near Lincoln High School, that offers primary and mental health services, Early Head Start childcare and, soon, an emergency overnight shelter for homeless youth.
"When we run into kids out on the street who need help, it's really good for us to have a place like this where we can refer them."
Local officials and nonprofit workers collaborated on the specialized facility.
Numerous Whitties-students, alumni, faculty and staff-also participate through internships, fellowships, research, employment and volunteerism. The space is owned by Blue Mountain Action Council, with The Health Center occupying one wing, Children's Home Society of Washington another and forthcoming teen center, to be called The Loft, operated by Catholic Charities, the third.
"Walla Walla has a lot of innovation in terms of the social work and services that they're providing, and it's been really eye-opening to see all of the work that's going on in our backyard," said Erin Coffey '17, a psychology major who joined the project through a Whitman fellowship and now serves as teen shelter planning assistant with Catholic Charities. "Learning more about the prevalence of youth homelessness and the huge need, it was a drive to stay involved."
The Hub also is implementing a trauma-informed approach to teaching and intervention based on teens' Adverse Childhood Experience scores, which measure risk factors such as abuse or addiction that may lead to negative outcomes. Lincoln High School has received national recognition for this and been featured in the documentary Paper Tigers (2015).
Sophia Webb '20, a student intern at The Health Center, added that she plans to take classes that will complement her experience there: "I like being able to be a part of this community. There's so much to learn."
Walla Walla County Commissioner Jim Johnson adds that The Hub is "something the community can be very proud of," and "I'm really impressed with what goes on here and what the staff provides for teens in transition."
Catholic Charities director Tim Meliah commended Whitties involved in The Hub: "Whitman students give so much. They bring in enthusiasm, knowledge and heart."
For an in-depth multimedia look at The Hub on 3rd, go online to whitman.edu/at-the-hub.