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      Ottumwa organization works to dispel the misconceptions of youth shelters

      American Home Finding Association Shelter

      The American Home Finding Association recognized Shelter Awareness Day on Saturday, April 21 in hopes of changing misconceptions and misunderstandings about youth shelters.

      The AHFA has existed since 1899 and provides women, children and families with the services and resources they need. They currently operate an emergency shelter care program in Agency for youths who, through one circumstance or another, need a safe place to stay.

      The visitors, including Iowa State Representative Mary Gaskill, who saw the shelter on Saturday received an eye-opening experience.

      "To really get a good understanding of what the shelter's all about, sometimes I think that people - they make assumptions about what it is and don't quite understand," said Tracey Boxx-Vass, Assistant Director for the AHFA. "And too, just to understand the importance of having an emergency shelter for kids."

      Funding for organizations like AHFA is tight nationwide, and locally, Boxx-Vass said they are worried they will not be able to continue providing the resources and programs they have in place. One of the most beneficial elements to their work is establishing preventative measures.

      "With the idea of - I guess this sort of new approach is to do some frontline interventions that hopefully will prevent kids from having to go to shelters," she said.

      The organization is always looking for donations to send to the youth shelter. People willing to donate can send personal care items, clothes, or food.

      American Home Finding Association also runs and handles several other programs, such as birth parent services, the foster grandparents program and family and individual counseling. They also run a Teen Health Center and a Child Care Center out of Ottumwa High School.

      For more information, visit their website .