Photo: La Buena Vida ambassador Fredy Gonzalez cuts the ceremonial ribbon officially opening Irving’s first homeless shelter for teens. /Photo by Adam Stephens
The La Buena Vida Youth Leadership Foundation hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, Nov. 10, celebrating the opening of Irving’s new solution for homeless teenagers: La Buena Vida House. Here, homeless teenage boys currently attending high school will find a place to live while preparing to work in the future and will eventually be able to support themselves upon graduation. La Buena Vida House is Irving’s first homeless shelter for teens.
The city of Irving worked with La Buena Vida as well as the Advocates for Homeless Teens (AHT) and Bear Creek Community development. Many local volunteers and businesses contributed to the house’s development by donating furniture and other items. The project is described as being part of the solution to Irving’s homeless problem.
“Many kids in our schools may not have the opportunities that others have,” La Buena Vida Executive Director Joy Goodrum said. “A lot of them feel like they don’t have much of a future. I want our kids in Irving to become successful adults and hopefully this will help them be successful.”
La Buena Vida House is specifically for homeless boys attending high school between the ages of 17 and 21; the house currently has four main bedrooms to accommodate two boys each (with a spare bedroom in case of overflow). While living in the house, boys are expected to attend school, work part time jobs, and start a savings account. Motivational talks and house projects will be part of life at La Buena Vida House as well. The goal is to help the boys living at the house develop the life skills necessary to eventually live on their own. There are plans to create a similar house for girls in the same situation.
This project was made possible due to the cooperation between La Buena Vida House and AHT. AHT was founded by a group of women who discovered the growing population of homeless teens in Irving. The women took the issue to former Mayor Herbert Gears, who told them to “go out and figure out the problem, then come back and we can talk about a solution.” The group took the discussion to heart and began researching the root of the problem. Their research eventually led to a partnership with the La Buena Vida Foundation. The two groups went back to the mayor and developed a plan that would provide a place to put homeless teens while helping them succeed.
“We defined success as ‘graduating from high school,’ and to do that, it takes food and shelter, safety, and love,” Dr. Lori A. Davis of AHT said. “This house will change kids’ lives and make our society better. Helping someone graduate and making sure they succeed later in life is more important than paying for their incarceration and welfare.”
The La Buena Vida Foundation was created in 2010 by Chris Allen and other members of the Las Colinas Country Club. The programs originally offered by the foundation included leadership training and financial literacy programs. Along with AHT, the group has been actively helping teens identified as unaccompanied youth (living without their parents) and providing counseling in order to ensure the teens receive the help they need.
“A lot of these kids come from a rough place,” Goodrum said. “If they don’t qualify to live in La Buena Vida House, we find other ways to help them. We find volunteers for them to live with, we give them any help they need.”
The ribbon cutting ceremony was attended by many representatives from the city of Irving and other entities that supported the project, including State Representative Rodney Anderson, Irving City Manager Chris Hillman, and Dallas County Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia. Pastor Dennis Webb spoke as Mayor Pro Tem. The ribbon was cut by La Buena Vida Youth Leadership Foundation Ambassador Fredy Gonzalez.
La Buena Vida House is located at 200 Alpine Court.