A story in yesterday's Metro section incorrectly reported the address of a shelter for abused and neglected youths operated by the Boys and Girls Clubs. The correct address is 1315 Irving St. NW.
"If I didn't have this place . . . my baby would be in foster care and I would be in a group home," declared the 17-year-old girl, the first resident of an apartment building for teen-age mothers and their babies operated by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.
While Boys and Girls Clubs were once primarily recreation havens for children who lived at home with their parents, the organization is expanding its programs to reach the youth who is less likely to drop by the clubhouse for a ball game.
There are only two other residential programs for teen-age mothers and their babies in the District, and those programs are usually full. When problems developed between the 17-year-old girl and her father, with whom she was living, a city social worker found space for her and her baby in the new program.
"It was all of the national attention being paid to runaway youths and youth pregnancies that made me decide to start some new programs," explained Edward Hudson, assistant vice president of the Washington area club and a member of the committee doing long-term planning for the national organization.
"As far as I am concerned, some of the problems teen-agers are experiencing today have reached the height of a national crisis, and I saw where Boys and Girls Clubs could make a difference," he said.
The local club has done much to expand its services. Four years ago it opened four shelters for neglected and abused youths. Two years ago it began "Operation Extinguish" to help juvenile arsonists. In May, it opened the shelter for teen-age mothers and began a hot line, a referral service and a temporary shelter for runaway youths.
Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington is an affiliate of the Boys Clubs of America, a 78-year-old nonprofit organization with 1,100 chapters across the country. The Washington area chapter is "unique because it serves suburban and urban youths," according to a spokesman at the national headquarters in New York.
The area club includes two facilities in Virginia, two in Maryland and three in the District. Even with the new outreach programs, the club organizations continue to serve the middle class with traditional summer day camps, sports programs and vocational training, according to Hudson.
Across the country, affiliates are structuring programs aimed at serving the specific needs of youths in their communities, said David Wynn, director of program development for Boys Clubs of America.
"A number of clubs are involved in group homes, including a club in Pawtucket, R.I., and Athens, Ga.," he said. "In El Monte, Calif., . . . the Boys Club is heavily involved in programs combating gang fights. In New York City, four centers in Manhattan have adolescent sexuality programs teaching young people about their own sexuality, to combat teen pregnancy.
"I don't believe any organization that gets its support from the community can afford to not become involved in social problems that impact upon youngsters today," he said.
Getting involved is an expensive endeavor, however, for a nonprofit organization. "It costs about a million and a half a year to run our alternative community programs," said Hudson, who receives grants from foundations and donations and contracts from the District and the federal government.
The local affiliate has two satellite offices for runaways, one at its Shiloh Baptist Church Family Life Center Branch, 1510 Ninth St. NW, and another at the Montgomery County Police Mid-County Branch, 1010 Grandin Ave., Rockville.
"A kid can call and we'll pick him up, address his needs, provide clothing or shelter and try to get him back with his parents," he said. "Of course, there's no way we could get him to stay if he doesn't want to."
One of the local chapter's first efforts at alternative programs was the 1981 opening of four shelters for abused and neglected youths.
Recently at one shelter, a three-story brown row house at 1315 Irving St. NE, a 15-year-old girl who called herself "Snoopy" said, "It's like family here. I wanted to come."
An 8-year-old girl, nicknamed "Ebony," said: "I do things I never did before. I go to places I never been. At home, the only time I went somewhere was to ride my bike outside or go to the park up the street."
The Boys and Girls Clubs, under a contract with the District, transformed two adjacent apartment buildings into a home for young mothers, aged 15 to 18, and for elderly volunteers who will provide family-type support to the young women. The organization is recruiting elderly volunteers.
The project, called the "Inter Generational Support Program," includes one building with five units for mothers and their babies. Each new resident moves into a bedroom with a twin bed, a crib, a dresser and a baby seat. A counselor lives on the premises.
The goal of the home is to prepare the mothers for independent living. Each occupant shares cleaning duties and other chores and receives counseling and assistance with transportation.
"I really enjoy it. It's just like being home," the 17-year-old mother said. She recalled that she and a younger brother "were on basketball teams at a Boys and Girls Club" when she was about 12.
"I accept the counselors here as family," she said. "I've learned a lot from them . . . how to give the baby a bath properly, how to feed her with a spoon.
"I'm going back to school for my [high school equivalency degree], and they are getting me a job, too," she said. "It makes the future look a whole lot different. I know I'm going to try hard."