Renovations planned for the former youth detention center

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The Courier-Times on 9/17/ 2017 by Kevin Green

Facility to house victims of human trafficking

Henry County’s former youth detention center, located atop a hill just west of Ind. 3 in Memorial Park, will soon be back in the business of housing juveniles.

However, the facility’s future tenants won’t be there because they ran afoul of the law; rather, it will be because they have been the victims of human trafficking.

Dave Dickerson of YOC (Youth Opportunity Center) of Muncie, the firm that leased the building from the county in mid-May 2016, recently appeared before the Henry County Commissioners with a request to allow them to spend nearly $300,000 to renovate and upgrade the building so it better meets their needs.

YOC’s current lease requires them to pay $2,000 per month plus utilities.

That lease is for a three-year term.

In addition to requesting permission to renovate the structure, they also asked that the lease be extended for another five years with an option to renew at the end of that period.

Dickerson said much of the planned work involves expanding the bathrooms so they better accommodate YOC’s anticipated clients.

“Right now, the bathrooms can service one child at a time, and we’re going to be servicing girls. Anybody who knows adolescent females knows one girl in the bathroom at a time is just not going to work for us,” Dickerson said. “We’re going to be able to create seven bathrooms out of what we have there in the building as it is.”

Dickerson said the planned work will make the building more functional and improve its value.

The plan is to house victims of sexual exploitation who were forced into human trafficking. Dickerson said the facility initially will provide services for 16 females at a time.

YOC plans to have the youth center up and running by Feb. 1. A hiring fair at the facility is planned for Nov. 2.

“We anticipate hiring 30 full-time employees and seven to 10 part-time employees,” he added.

The new venture will be known as Tru Harbor and Dickerson said he anticipates the number of females it serves will increase at some point in the future. He also said YOC will be working with the local juvenile justice and probation system to work with juveniles in Henry County.

“This will be a day program, they’re not going to be living there,” he said regarding that aspect of the operation. “They’ll come there during the day or in the evening-time as a part of their supervision and that will be working with your local court system.”

YOC is only leasing the non-secure side of the center as well as an area designed for administration. The secure side of the building is not included in the lease agreement.

Commissioner Kim Cronk thanked Dickerson and YOC for its interest in doing business in Henry County and its willingness to invest in the county-owned building it is leasing. He made a motion to allow the requested renovations to proceed and to extend the lease as requested. That motion passed 3-0.

The former youth detention center was constructed in the early 1990s. It can house approximately 60 juveniles at full capacity. Because of changes in the way many judges sentence juvenile offenders, the need for a county-owned and operated youth detention center decreased to the point the facility was closed in 2010.

It was almost immediately leased by Gibault Children Services. Gibault operated the facility until December 2011, when it was closed for financial reasons.