Everyday Heroes: Salem teen spearheads effort to create homeless youth shelter

Raul Marquez convinced board members of the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley to put up $100,000 as seed money to renovate a house in southeast Salem as a shelter for homeless youth. (KATU)

We meet Raul Marquez, who as a senior at McKay High School in Salem convinced the board of the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley to provide a grant for $100,000 to create a homeless youth shelter.

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The house is a work in progress. Very soon it will become “Taylor's House,” a safe haven in Salem for kids and teens that might not have a place to go.

“We have five bedrooms that will serve 10 youth,” said Marquez. “We're going to have staff here 24/7. There will never be a time when there is not an adult here.”

Getting all this done was a cooperative effort between the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley and several other agencies.

But it was then-high school senior Raul Marquez who spearheaded the project with a passionate plea before the board last January.

“He galvanized our board to support this project,” said United Way spokeswoman, Elizabeth Schrader.

That support continued after graduation.

The $100,000 from the board was seed money; more needed to be raised.

Raul worked tirelessly to get the home renovated and get it done quickly.

He just started college this week at Willamette University.

“To be able to raise the funds in under three months is something that I'm extremely proud of,” he said. “I think it's just a testament to the support we've received from community members.”

Raul sacrificed a lot of his free time to help get things done as he finished up high school.

“It was definitely an interesting schedule that I had,” he said. “I know that sometimes I had to miss school but my teachers were supportive about it. They knew that if I was missing class it wasn't because I was skipping.”

His work ethic impressed all of those associated with the project.

“To have a kid who spoke to the general public in a way that made them react this way in less than three months is pretty incredible,” Schrader said.

Ashley Shaw of the Community Action Agency, the group that will run the day-to-day operations at the shelter, agreed.

“I think he's cool,” she said. “I think he's a pretty cool kid. I think the power of youth voice is so important, and he's done such an exceptional job and we're really proud of him.”

Raul says he just wants to give back to the community.

“I know I've grown up with both my parents and that's something that's easily overlooked. It's something that not everybody has the opportunity to have," he said. “I've never had to worry about whether or not we're going to eat the next meal. Never had to worry about where we would stay. And I think it's something that everyone in our community deserves to have.”

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