Building A Haven: Residents spearhead sanctuary for children in Harlingen

HARLINGEN — He’s an angry young man.

He’s only 12 years old.

His father used him for a punching bag. He’s been shuffled from one foster home to the next, and one of those was worse than his original family. The whole experience has cranked up his hypervigilance.

He’s built thick battlements like castle walls around him, with archers at the ready. And behind those walls his hate burns, as does the suspicion, fear … and the pain.

This is a hypothetical case. But this is the kind of child Kristin Millon and her mother Gracie Bradwell want to serve when they open Valley Haven Emergency Children’s Shelter later this year.

The 6,500-square-foot facility at 5501 W. Business 83 will have 32 beds. The two founders will be looking for a special kind of person to work with the children.

“A lot of these kids are acting out,” Millon said. “You have to learn not to take it personally. They’re already mad coming in here.”

Millon and Bradwell decided to create the shelter last year while volunteering for CASA — Court Appointed Special Advocates. That’s when they learned that children removed from their homes by Child Protective Services have nowhere to stay here in the Valley.

Instead, they are transported to Corpus Christi or Laredo.

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Local shelter will fill a gap for children in need

By TRAVIS M. WHITEHEAD

Staff Writer

HARLINGEN — “Where are you taking me?” the frightened young girl asks.

“Corpus Christi,” comes the flat reply.

“Corpus Christi?” she says, panic creeping into her voice. “I don’t want to go to Corpus. All my friends are here, and my family.”

Silence.

She has no say in the matter.

The scared little girl who’s just been removed from her home is even more terrified now.

In this hypothetical case, there’s no place for her in the Valley. No emergency shelter here where she and other children in her predicament can go.

They have to be taken to a shelter out of the Valley.

The lack of a local shelter has numerous implications. Consider separation from friends, brothers and sisters. Then unfamiliar surroundings, the loss of security.

Kristin Millon, co-founder of Valley Haven Emergency Children’s Shelter, said quite often brothers and sisters are the glue that holds them together. Separate them, and the fragmentation increases.

“It’s really been an eye opener,” Millon said.

twhitehead@valleystar.com