Teens and preteens staying at the largest homeless shelter in Washington have a new place to spend time and do homework.
A youth center opened Wednesday inside the homeless shelter at D.C. General in Southeast D.C., where more than half of the 700 residents are children.
Resident Danielle Rayside, the mother of a 15-year-old, said it's crucial for kids at the shelter to have a dedicated area.
"There aren't too many spaces where kids can be themselves. They're always sharing space with other adults," she said.
The center where youth can do homework, participate in activities and get help applying to colleges was opened by the Homeless Children's Playtime Project, which raised $40,000 and recruited companies to volunteer their time and expertise. The nonprofit previously built a playground outside the shelter.
Washington officials plan to close D.C. General within the next two years. In the meantime, youth need somewhere to go.
"Young people need a safe place to do their homework and get their needs met now," Homeless Children's Playtime Project co-founder Jamila Larson said.
The youth center hopes to attract other groups that will offer services to young residents.
"I'm happy to know that they care enough about the kids' well-being while they're in this sort of a situation," Rayside said.