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KATS shelter serves as new ‘safe haven’ for at-risk youth

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MARATHON COUNTY, Wis. (WAOW) -- Keeping Area Teens Safe (KATS), is a new non-profit shelter that helps transform the lives of youth who may be facing some adversity.

KATS is open 24/7 and has a specific focus of servicing runaway or homeless youth in Marathon County.

KATS Executive Director Ms. Buckli said that in the United States, up to 20,000 youth sleep homeless each night.

In knowing that, Ms. Buckli said Marathon County is an area that's becoming well aware of the need to provide these types that help get kids off the street or out of negative environments.

Ms. Buckli went on to say that from the start, it's all about building trust and establishing a relationship with the kids who come through the doors. This ensures that the kids know they have someone they can lean and depend on during times of need.

Qualified kids range from 12 to 17 in age, and up to 18 until they graduate high school.

They're eligible to stay up to 30 days, or a little longer, depending on the situation — which is a case-by-case basis.

Regardless of the case, Ms. Buckli said there are always common factors when it comes to most of the youth.

"It's youth who may have some struggles at home," Ms. Buckli said. "Whether it be physical abuse, sexual abuse, there may be conflict in the home, some poverty in the home or loss of income."

Ms. Buckli added that the first few days after a child enters the facility, time is spent getting them back into school while lining up services to help with re-entering a stable situation after their stay.

KATS also has a mission to help prevent possible trafficking, drug use, alcohol use and criminal activity.

Other driving forces behind KATS is rebuilding the foundation of life skills that are needed like repairing relationships with parents or guardians from the original home, providing encouragement, responsibility, accountability, getting an education, and other household skills like cooking and laundry for example.

Ms. Buckli encourages anyone in need to not hesitate about reaching out.

"We're here to help you with the needs you have and help you get in a stable situation, so you can get back to a normal lifestyle," she said. "You can live the life of a child and you can experience normalcy, and that's so important."

To utilize KATS, you can either call at (715) 298-5053, email, or by ringing the doorbell at the 1115 Hillcrest Ave location in Wausau.

Rashad Williams

News 9 Reporter

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