The former Westmar dorm known as Centennial now houses young men and women in supervised apartment living through Visinet of Iowa, Inc., a privately owned corporation contracted with the State of Iowa.
Center Director Darin Dunn said up to six young people, ages 16-20, can be served by the program at Centennial. Fewer than six are there now.
The residents are referred to Visinet from Department of Human Services and juvenile court services, according to Dunn, who said the facility is "staffed 24-7."
"It's a site for kids who just aren't quite ready to be in their own apartment," he explained.
For example, a young person leaving a residential facility not ready to be on their own might be identified as a potential Visinet of Iowa client.
They can come from anywhere, that is, they do not have to have been residents of Le Mars, Plymouth County or the area.
The program serves young men and women ages 16-20, as long as they meet the criteria of a child as identified by the state, Dunn said.
"We are targeting kids who don't really have an appropriate home environment to live in, the kids whose parents don't really provide them with structure and guidance and caring that they need to succeed," said Dunn.
Visinet staff provide support and counseling and teach a variety of living skills such as balancing checkbooks, paying bills and setting structure for the day in terms of getting to school and work.
Dunn stresses that none have been convicted of crimes, though some may be on probation because of criminal activity. He also stresses that it "absolutely not" a halfway house.
"Certain things are not accepted," explained Dunn.
Visinet does not accept residents with a history of violence, sexual abuse, sexual assault "or anything sexual," Dunn said.
If the residents have had a drug problem they will have gone through treatment before living at a Visinet facility, Dunn said, adding, "It is not a drug treatment program."
However Visinet staff and program offer support in continued longterm recovery efforts, such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
The Le Mars location has been very good, said the director.
"It's in a great location," said Dunn. "We're getting the kids involved with the Community Wellness Center and the Y. It's within reasonable walking distance to the school, Le Mars Community. It is within reasonable walking distance to a variety of employment possibilities. We really like the location."
The program has been operation in Le Mars since March 8. Visinet leases the dorm rooms from the City of Le Mars and has a one-year lease, according to John Meis, assistant city engineer/code enforcement. Meis said the program was explained to the city as being for kids who had been kicked out of their homes or were homeless.
In his opinion, it does not violate the restrictive covenants the city council required for use of the former college campus.