(Update: added video, founder’s comments)
“We have been the presence of intercession in their lives,” says founder Andi Buerger
REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Beulah Square, a Redmond nonprofit established as a safe haven for teenagers victims of sexual predators and criminal activity, will close on December 31 after 13 years of service to the central Oregon community.
Andi Buerger, the founder and executive director of Beulah’s Place, told NewsChannel 21 on Monday that between her medical health, a sharp drop in donations and other setbacks caused by COVID-19, there was really no another option.
“COVID has happened, the governor’s mandates for not opening the youth centers – it all came into play,” Buerger said. “My husband and I tried to hold on to the loan and the mortgage, but you know after a while we just couldn’t do it. We had to sell it.”
Buerger said she was inspired to start the association after suffering her fourth out of nine massive brain injuries in 2008, which affected her ability to do the work she previously did. With this pivotal life changing moment and her own traumatic experience of being a victim of sex trafficking, she wanted to expand her level of service.
âI was trafficked from the age of 6 months to 17 years by members of my family, long before there was a term called human trafficking, so I could have ended up as any of those girls, âBuerger said. “That’s when we decided we had to do something.”
Over the years, the volunteer-run organization has helped more than 300 young people find housing, a support system and other basic needs. The organization helps 18-22 year olds with temporary shelter, accommodating them between 3 and 6 months depending on the number of foster families willing to welcome a child.
Although housing is not restricted to minors, they receive ongoing support through other services and programs offered by the organization. Right now, Buerger says they have six teenage girls who still need help and are looking for support.
âWe have been the intercessory presence in their lives,â Buerger said. âPeople who really believed in themselves and cared enough about going the distance, even with the bombs along the way. “
Fifty of the graduates made the transition to a more stable life, with a high school diploma or GED, financial independence, and graduate school.
To graduate, young adults must be able to reenter the community with little or no help. To help adolescents progress, programs include the provision of donated vehicles and assistance with educational development.
âOur success rate was 92% in keeping these children independent,â Buerger said.
Buerger also said they were able to help eight of the young adults enter college.
One of the most poignant memories that Buerger says will always stay with her is of a girl who attempted suicide because of her past trauma.
âOne of our daughters had a hard time and met some of her abusers locally, which was a bit too much for her,â Buerger said.
“She ended up in the ER. She didn’t want to kill herself, but it was too much for her. When she woke up she said to me, ‘You know, no one ever cared to know. if I woke up, or showed up, or came home – until you. ‘”
Buerger said it’s important for people to know that just because they see a teenager on the street with tattoos, smoking or acting rebellious doesn’t mean they are mean or criminal. She said some had been trafficked, procured and suffered from PTSD. What will help them get through, she says, is offering advice and making them feel valued.
From now on, Buerger is taking a step back to take care of his physical health, but intends to work with an organization called Voices Against Trafficking.
“What will happen is that it will bring greater awareness and education not only to human trafficking, but to the sexual exploitation of children in general,” she said.
Here is the message Buerger recently sent to supporters and the community:
August 24, 2021
As many of you know, I am a survivor of child sex trafficking and a strong advocate for the protection of young people. I have dedicated my life to saving as many young lives as possible, especially through my non-profit organization – Beulah’s Place.
In 2008, a simple desire to help at-risk homeless teens find their purpose and hope became reality. My husband Ed and I wanted these desperate young people to be safe and have a chance to live. We wanted them to find a life with purpose and the hope that God promises all of his children. We founded Beulah’s Place, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit, and created a volunteer-run shelter system. We rescued teens from the streets of central Oregon and beyond. Over the years, we have helped over 300 young people find housing and essentials.
Every dollar donated to Beulah’s Place goes towards the programs and care provided to every teenager (aged 18-22) housed. Each accommodated adolescent is required to sign a legally binding contract for accommodation and voluntary services. The average duration of a temporary shelter is 3 to 6 months depending on individual circumstances and the number of foster families willing to welcome one of our children.
Fifty of our “graduates” have managed to settle into their own independent living situation with a high school diploma or GED, holding a job and many going to college. He made all the sacrifices that are worth it. Beulah’s Place is so proud of every young person that we were able to help stabilize and provide a support system they could count on within the community of Central Oregon! All of our graduates have given back in one way or another. A few choose professional careers that involve helping at-risk adolescents and young adults as they have already been helped.
It is with a heavy heart that I must share that Beulah’s Place will close on December 31, 2021 – for a number of reasons. At this time, my health will not allow me to continue at the pace and strength needed to move Beulah’s Place forward. The Board of Directors and I have had to face the harsh reality that Beulah’s Place can no longer function as an organization run by volunteers. In the past 18 difficult months (due to the severe Covid crisis) our funding has plummeted. This is the reason why we were not able to open the youth center. We were forced to sell the building. Every penny we received was invested in the young people we helped. We even put our hands in our personal pockets and that is not enough. We still have many children who we are helping to resolve their situation as best we can until the end of the year.
The success we have experienced in our community is due in large part to many of you â our wonderful donors, volunteers and our community. You have made our 92% success rate a reality. We are eternally grateful that this percentage represents the number of sheltered youth who have graduated from our program and are successfully living independently with little or no assistance.
Every prayer, every penny invested in every child who comes in contact with Beulah’s Place is a blessing. We have six teenage girls who still need help. For our donors and supporters, I encourage you to continue helping Beulah’s Place until the end of 2021 at beulahsplace.org or (541) 526-0445. May God bless each of you and our children. Thank you!
Andi Buerger, JD
PO Box 518 â¢ Redmond OR 97756