Hearts with a Mission youth shelter welcomed more than 150 visitors through its doors for an afternoon open house on Friday.

Hearts with a Mission youth shelter welcomed more than 150 visitors through its doors for an afternoon open house on Friday.

"We hope to be open by the first of November," said Kevin Lamson, Hearts with a Mission executive director.

The shelter recently wound up its construction phase, thanks to a concerted community effort, and will provide temporary emergency shelter to homeless youths ages 10 to 17 for up to 72 hours without parental consent and up to 120 days with consent, said Lamson. Another open house is scheduled for today.

Noting there is currently no shelter in Jackson County that will house homeless children unless they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, Lamson said more than 125 businesses contributed toward the much-needed housing.

"People gave their very best," Lamson said. "This has just been awesome."

Remodeling on the house at 521 Edwards St. in Medford began in December. But crews quickly discovered costly and unforeseen structural damage in the dilapidated building. Extensive work was needed to repair the foundation, something the fledgling group hadn't planned on.

Rush Behnke, vice president of the Hearts with a Mission board and owner of a general contracting business, has "given the past five months of his life" managing crews, organizing volunteers and acquiring donations of time and materials, said Lamson.

Behnke said getting homeless teens off the street is personal for him.

"I feel for homeless kids," said Behnke. "My youngest brother was homeless over the course of his life. We lost him a few years ago."

One of the shelter's upstairs bedrooms has a plaque that states "In memory of Glen Russell Behnke," he said.

Behnke said he now has hundreds of stories of business owners and volunteers who gave selflessly — and often beyond their means — in a poor economy.

"Just because we have a down economy doesn't mean people don't care," he said. "It's been pretty phenomenal. This (project) has changed my life forever."

The shelter's $200,000 federal block grant, awarded by the city on Sept. 12, 2008, was used to purchase the property and required a commitment to open in September 2009. Another $240,000 in in-kind donations was committed to cover renovations, Lamson said.

The shelter is in the process of getting final permits from the city and a license from the state. The board has hired a manager and has begun adding 15 more paid and volunteer staff members needed to run the shelter at capacity, he said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.