A Town for Boys
In the early 1900s, Father Edward J. Flanagan was working as a young Catholic priest in Omaha, Nebraska. While in Omaha, he operated what some called a “Working Man’s Hotel” which was little more than a warehouse where he provided food, clothing, and shelter to the homeless men in Omaha. While serving those men, he began to see a pattern that began when the men were young boys. Many of the men would start as homeless and neglected boys, become delinquent in adolescence, and criminals as adults. As Father Flanagan spent more time with these men, he began to wonder what kind of difference he might have made in their lives if he had encountered them earlier in their lives. This led to him building a home for homeless boys called Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home; later to be renamed Boys Town.
"Not Running a Prison"
As Boys Town began to grow, there were certain requirements and principles that Father Flanagan felt were important to establish for the raising of these boys. The first and most important requirement was that these boys wanted to be there. Father Flanagan felt that it was important to establish that he was “not running a prison” and that “this is a home, and you don’t wall in the members of your family.” The other principles that the home taught the boys included things like good sportsmanship, including how to win and lose graciously, by establishing sports for the boys to play and the importance of music by establishing a band for the boys to play in. The principles that Father Flanagan insisted on teaching these boys were so successful that none of the boys had to return to the home once they left.
Over the next few years, various services began to be added for the boys. Most notably, a doctor and a dentist provided free health care, and three sisters from the Sisters of Notre Dame convent provided a free education for the boys. Although the cottage system was not originally part of Father Flanagan’s plan for the orphanage, he had thought of the idea in 1940s and was able to purchase twenty-five cottages. Unfortunately, Father Flanagan’s dream was not brought to fruition at the time due to a lack of funds. However, the dream would receive new life in 1973 when Father Robert P. Hupp took over as the third person to be executive over the boys home. By the end of 1975, Boys Town consisted of forty-one homes, each complete with a married couple who taught the boys various lessons every day. Now, Boys Town exists in twelve locations across the United States. Each location is complete with Family Teaching Couples that help to provide the children with a safe home in which they can learn.