Kathy Looper, founder of Gloria House in Visalia, shows some of the 24 beds and sleeping pods that will be available to young girls who have no other place to go. Photo by Donald A. Promnitz
Written by The Business Journal Staff
It was on St. Patrick’s Day that therapist Kathy Looper of Visalia received a crisis call from a girl she had previously counseled at the Juvenile Detention Facility. The girl, 15, had just been released and was with her mother.
“There was a family friend living in the house and he was a human trafficker, and he had given her drugs and asked her to work for him,” Looper said. “She had just gotten off the streets, placed in juvenile hall, and was very close to dying when they picked her up.”
Over the course of 10 hours, Looper said that it was apparent that there was no place to put her. Probation and investigators thus allowed the girl to stay in the home, as the man accused of trafficking was away and police were informed. The girl, however, ran away two days after the call had been made. She is still missing.
It was from this ordeal that Gloria House — named after the late daughter of a friend of the home’s founders — came to fruition.
“After that day, Kathy and I started looking for a spot where we could open up a shelter for teens that didn’t have options to either go home or go into foster care,” said Dalan Brokaw, a former police captain and the chairman of the board at Gloria House. “That they would have a safe space to come and that we could work with the authorities to find them a more permanent place that just isn’t a temporary shelter and a temporary safe space.”
Headed by Journey Youth Coalition, a faith-based nonprofit, the 3,100-square foot shelter will have 24 beds and sleeping pods available for runaway and homeless girls ages 14 to 17 for three weeks. Looper stated that it will provide those staying not only a place to sleep, but also to receive counseling and help girls with their studies.
“We’re kind of opening in phases. We’re going to start as a shelter only from 5 p.m. to 8,” Looper said. “However… we’ll definitely do an assessment as they come in.”
They’ve already accepted their first guest, but have extensive work to do, however, before they can stage their open house Dec. 16. They are also seeking a grant writer. The Gloria House, however, has received vocal support in Visalia and Tulare County at large.
“Gloria’s House fills a unique need by supporting the most vulnerable in our communities, our youth,” said Tim Ward, Tulare County district attorney. “It is the pleasure of the Office of the District Attorney to support a mission of care and compassion for those on the brink of losing hope, because we know Gloria’s House is there.”
Looper said that it is her hope to open up a similar shelter for boys in the near future. In the meantime, Journey Youth Coalition continues in their work to create dry land for youths in distress at Gloria House.
“If a kid is in foster care and they decide they’re going to run away,” Looper said, “we want to make sure they know there’s a place they can go.”
For more information about Gloria House, visit gloriahouse.org.