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Judge, group launch bid to fund youth safe house

Family Court Judge William Voy isn’t giving up on his mission to build a safe house for teen prostitutes, even if financial support for the idea has been slow in coming.

For years, Voy has been working on an alternative for the girls who appear before him each week on prostitution-related charges. But he has had difficulty, especially in recent tough economic times, getting financial pledges from those he hoped would help fund it.

"We’ve been kind of in a holding pattern," Voy said this week. "We want people to know we’re still out there, still proceeding to bring this to fruition."

To that end, Voy and supporters on Thursday launched a public awareness campaign, kicked off with a reception at the downtown Morelli House, to draw attention to his idea and to the foundation created to help fund it, the PSEC Nevada foundation. PSEC stands for Protection of Sexually Exploited Children. The foundation’s Web site is www.nevadachild.com.

Currently, teen prostitutes are kept locked in the detention center, sent to a state reformatory, referred to a treatment center for substance abuse or behavioral problems, or sent to a shelter for abused or neglected children.

Voy wants to built a 7,500-square-foot safe house that would provide the girls a place that’s safe but not institutional, a home with doors that lock from the outside. The home would provide counseling, health and educational services. It would house eight to 14 girls at a time.

Voy estimates it will cost $2 million to construct and furnish the home and will cost about $784,000 a year to staff and operate.

The judge had hoped Clark County would contribute about $560,000 a year toward staffing, but the county has resisted pledging the money in today’s rocky economy.

Voy said he has already been pledged a five-acre parcel of Bureau of Land Management land on which to build the facility in the southeastern Las Vegas Valley.

Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285.

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