Construction for Coffee Oasis homeless teen shelter begins

Teens hang out at Coffee Oasis in Bremerton last Thursday evening. Construction on site for a homeless teen shelter began last week and the goal is for the shelter to be up and running by the end of the summer. - Kristin Okinaka
Teens hang out at Coffee Oasis in Bremerton last Thursday evening. Construction on site for a homeless teen shelter began last week and the goal is for the shelter to be up and running by the end of the summer.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka

After dropping out of high school, failing to complete his GED in Job Corps and getting kicked out of the Washington Youth Academy, Fellow Johnson realized he needed to change his ways.

The 22-year-old currently pays rent for a Bremerton house with other roommates through state Social Security's Supplemental Security Income. He's been homeless in the past, and doesn't want to head back in that direction.

In addition to his academic fall-outs, Johnson used to drink alcohol excessively, smoked marijuana and abused oxycontin. Now, he goes to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and says he no longer uses drugs.

"All of it got into my head. I was like, 'I don't want to do that anymore,'" Johnson said last Thursday evening at Coffee Oasis in Bremerton.

Coffee Oasis, located on Burwell Street, serves commuters' coffee and is also a center for homeless teens and young adults. With many programs set up for teens and young adults between the age of 13 and 25, including case management, job training and mentoring, soon a teen shelter will be added to its bevy of services available for Kitsap's young homeless.

Construction on the eight-bed shelter, on the second floor above the coffee shop, began last Wednesday, said Dave Frederick, of Coffee Oasis. Frederick anticipates construction will be about a three-month process and for the shelter to be ready for use by the end of the summer.

"The goal is July, [or] August to be up and running," he said.

The homeless teen shelter will be the first in Kitsap County to cater toward a younger crowd. Frederick said he is discussing with a nearby church to have Coffee Oasis' youth drop-in sessions be relocated during the time of construction. The job training and case management will continue onsite since Coffee Oasis recently started leasing the building behind the coffee shop on Fourth Street.

The shelter's construction is estimated to cost $600,000, of which $400,000 was fundraised with the help of the community. Frederick said the rest of the money will likely be made up through donated labor.

Johnson, who has been visiting Coffee Oasis since last summer, only recently started meeting with a case manager. He said the staff cannot force anyone to be in case management, so for a while he would go to the center to just hang out.

"If this place wasn't here right now, they wouldn't know what to do," Johnson said of other young adults and teens who go to Coffee Oasis, including himself.

Growing up in the foster care system from age 10 to 17, Johnson said he never had much guidance in his life or people he could just talk to. At Coffee Oasis, people care about how he is doing, Johnson said.

While there are other places that provide services for homeless people such as the Salvation Army, Johnson said that sometimes other places do not know how to deal with young adults.

"I came here paranoid. They instantly gave me a warm welcome," said 19-year-old Cody about Coffee Oasis. Cody, who is homeless, did not provide his last name.

Cody has been homeless for four months, either staying at a friend's house or outside in Bremerton if staying with a friend isn't an option. Last Thursday, Cody and his case manager went to Everest College for a meeting. He plans to enroll in classes for the massage therapy program.

"If it wasn't for Coffee 'O' I probably wouldn't be OK," Cody said.


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