By Sarah K. Hall St. Clair Missourian Editor Jan 11, 2017
The St. Clair Board of Aldermen unanimously approved last week a conditional use permit for Station 365, a SafeKids youth center located at 365 S. Main St.
A public hearing was held before the regular meeting on the matter, but no one in the audience came forward with any objections or concerns.
The planning board made a recommendation for approval of the CUP for the center last month; however, it did come with a few conditions, which the aldermen accepted as well.
The board limited the occupancy of the small, former home of the St. Clair MiniMart building to 15 people at one time inside, and no more than 12 people outside in front of the building.
Lee Vandiver, the center’s executive director, told the planning board last month he planned to put a couple of picnic tables in front of the center so children can sit outside in warmer weather. If more than 12 people are present outside, the board decided the activities would be restricted to the rear of the building.
Other restrictions include there to be no additional lighting installed at the front of the building that would impede traffic on Main Street, and any outside music would need to cease after 10 p.m.
Jireh Ministries CEO Mark Mobius, who was present at both the public hearing and regular meeting Tuesday, said he is working with the St. Clair School District to provide after-school services for students who are “at risk.”
“The actual rule for being at risk is if you come home two or more days a week and there is no guardian at home for you,” he said. “That’s the actual bar for being at risk so we’re trying to make ourselves available during those times.”
Mobius said the ministry has received some additional funding from the Franklin County Community Resource Board so SafeKids plans to set up a hub in the form of a community center at Franklin County school districts and work along with the liaisons to the schools to try to meet student needs outside of school hours.
“We’re trying to do what we can to develop programs to help the community,” he said.
The center will be a place where youth who are homeless or having other issues or problems can go to get the resources they need to get back on track. It was scheduled to open last month, but Jireh Ministries, the organization overseeing the outreach, had to apply for the CUP because any agency that provides such services does not fall under permitted uses in an area zoned C-4, which is a central business district.
Vandiver said the center would be open every Thursday afternoon from 3-6 p.m., but days and hours will be extended as the program grows and as volunteers are put in place.
“Our goal is to be able to help these students, especially homeless students, to get connected in those areas and get the help they need, whatever that may be,” Vandiver said. “Some of them may need help with what’s going on between Mom and Dad and themselves, and we want to be able to get them the help they need so we can restore that relationship with Mom and Dad and get them back home.”
Vandiver said SafeKids is working with a counseling firm to get some volunteers to come to the center and work with kids.
The center also plans to recruit college students to volunteer to tutor students after school during center hours, and Vandiver said SafeKids is working with a volunteer coordinator from East Central College to find those volunteers.
Vandiver said one of the main goals of the SafeKids Youth Center is to help homeless youth, whether it be to find them temporary shelter or just to provide a meal. However, no children will be housed at the center for any length of time.
The center will provide free Wi-Fi and Vandiver said he also hopes to have people on hand to help teens fill out job applications, balance checkbooks and teach other life skills.
SafeKids is an outreach of Jireh Ministries of St. Louis, a ministry with several outreach programs, including The Rock Christian radio station.
The SafeKids outreach is under the umbrella of the SafePlaces program, a national nonprofit organization based out of Louisville, Ky., which originated in 1983 from an initiative known as Project Safe Place.
Businesses and organizations in the area can volunteer to place a yellow sign in a window that designates the building as a “safe place” for any child to turn to in times of trouble or distress and seek help from employees who have gone through training to deal with different crises.
Vandiver said so far two businesses, Healthmart and the Mobil station on Highway 47 across from McDonald’s, have already volunteered to be safe places.
SafeKids is looking for people to volunteer as drivers for kids who go to a SafePlace designation.