One by one the rooms are coming together with fresh paint, furniture and décor meant to comfort some of the most vulnerable children in the community.
A girl’s bedroom is pretty in pink and white – a shabby-chic design with ruffles, a little chandelier, paper lanterns and “WISH” spelled in big letters atop a dresser.
Down the hall a boy’s room pops in red, black and gray, punctuated with sports gear adorning the walls.
Children’s Village, a shelter for children in crisis, is nearly ready to open the second house on its Coeur d’Alene campus, doubling its capacity to 24 and allowing the organization to help an additional 75 to 100 kids each year.
“There is a great need. We’ve turned away over 60 kids this year so far,” said Christina Hull, development director for the nonprofit organization.
The group foster home on West Hanley Avenue cares for children, from infants to teens, who have been neglected or abused, or are homeless or in a family crisis. Their parents may be suffering from mental illness, going into drug rehabilitation or headed to jail.
“This very much is like a family with a lot of kids,” Hull said. “That’s how we run it. … It’s filled with love and hugs.”
The kids stay in what’s called the Moyer Home, which has operated since 1990. The Miller Home, a nearly identical house next door, has sat empty the past four years. Children’s Village opened it in 1996 as a residential treatment program but was forced to close that program in 2010 after Idaho lawmakers slashed funding for children’s mental health services.
With so many children needing a safe and stable place to live, the nonprofit worked to raise $650,000 to reopen the Miller Home as a replica of the program next door. Early in 2015 it will house up to 12 more boys and girls for stays as brief as a night or as long as years.
“We don’t have a limit on how long the kids can stay with us,” Hull said.
About half of the kids at Children’s Village have been removed from their homes by the state, primarily because they have been abused.
The other half come directly from families no longer able to care for the children. “And the No. 1 reason for that is homelessness,” Hull said.
Many are referred to the shelter by churches or the medical community. They may be living in a car, and when the weather turns, they seek help.
“We turn away a lot of kids in the cold winter months” because of a lack of space, she said.
“If we have vacancies we will take them,” she said. “And if we don’t, we give them whatever they need. We give them diapers, we give them food, we give them clothes – and send them on their way and say we’ll contact you as soon as we have an opening.”
The children who do get in are given clothes and toiletries, haircuts and any medical, dental and vision care they need. They are transported to and from school and extracurricular activities such as sports, and they go on special outings like plays and visits to Silverwood Theme Park. Older kids can earn an allowance.
“We provide for literally every need that a child has when they come in here,” Hull said.
If a child needs a dress for a school dance, the staff would find one, she said.
“We really try to take care of their whole being and help them have a normal, healthy, happy childhood, not just shelter, because it goes beyond that,” she said. “There’s self-esteem, there’s confidence, there’s personal development.”
Businesses and individuals sponsored the furnishing and decoration of 10 bedrooms and a nursery in the Miller Home. Each child over age 4 gets his or her own bedroom.
The house also will include a toddler play room, a rec room filled with games and toys, a kitchen to prepare home-cooked meals, and living quarters for house moms on duty day and night.
“We’re moving, we’re shuffling, we’re getting everything ready to go,” Hull said.
A fencing company recently fenced the backyard for free, and a Hayden church painted the 8,000-square-foot house.
“We’ve had a lot of amazing support getting this open,” Hull said.
The Discovery Land Company Foundation and members of Gozzer Ranch Golf & Lake Club made a major contribution to open the Miller Home.
Children’s Village is the only organization in Kootenai County that takes in children alone. Less than 5 percent of its funding comes from the state. The rest is from donors, fundraisers and grants.
The Miller Home will open as soon as the state does a final inspection and approval within the next couple of months, Hull said.
Children’s Village also plans to build a small administration building and add a security gate near the campus entrance.
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