New center opens in St. Paul to help teens stay away from crime

The House of Refuge Outreach opened this week on St. Paul’s east side to help families in need of food, clothing, education and employment.

But House of Refuge Outreach Executive Director Sharon Ross told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS one of the center’s big goals, right now, is to work with teenagers and keep them from living a life filled with crime.

"There are kids between the ages of 11 and 15 who need to be shown there is a better way to live their lives," Ross said. "We need to pair them with mentors and make sure they get what they need so they can make better choices in their lives."

Ross said she chose to open the 15,000 square-foot center, located at 510 Atwater Circle, because she said there is a great need in St. Paul to help teenagers avoid trouble. She has self-funded the program while seeking grant money and donations, as well as volunteers.

"I love this neighborhood for its people, its diversity and there is a chance to do something really good here," Ross said. "With these kids, we have to help them with mentors who will show them what it means to get up at 5 o’clock and go to work, we have to get them on the computer and teach them skills and give them a sense of pride and ownership."

Rev. Darryl Spence told KSTP he decided to help Ross with her mission because he believes in her and the program she’s developing, and he will be one of the volunteers who mentors some of the teenagers.

"It’s not too late to make a difference with these kids, and we can show them they don’t have to do carjackings and steal cars, I mean we need to tell them, ‘Look, you are only 12 and 13 years old, there is something better for you to choose.’"