Any given night, there may be up to a hundred teens in the greater Waterville area. Some may be sleeping on friends’ sofas; some may be spending the night in automobiles; some may be sleeping in empty railroad cars. Many have no place to shower or clean their clothes. Many get by with the clothes on their back or what they can carry. They are trying to go to school and may have trouble staying awake in class. They may be working to save up money for a place to live instead of having the security of their own home. You may have seen one and not known it because they look so much like your own children. Maybe you saw a disheveled, “dirty” teen and crossed the street to avoid him or here. They are here, they are all around us. They are your children. They are my children. Their pain is our pain and we have a duty to help them.
Helping young people who are homeless get on surer footing is challenging.
The John T. Gorman Foundation has been successfully working with Preble Street– which operates the Joe Kreisler Teen Shelter, one of only two emergency shelters for runaway and homeless children and teens in Southern Maine – to improve services to homeless youth.
“We know that too many youth are persistently homeless,” said Senior Program Associate Carter Friend. “Preble Street’s Teen Center and Teen Shelter have done a fantastic job of providing them with immediate help. We also believe, however, as does Preble Street, that if you support homeless youth with longer-term comprehensive supports – including the opportunity to secure transitional housing – they have a better shot at becoming independent, and that this can happen more quickly than it would without the added help.”
As part of a three-year, $813,000 grant, Preble Street is providing apartments to eligible youth as well as important services, such as physical and mental health and substance abuse treatment, and help with such things as life-skills, money management and job readiness.
“Many of these services are already being offered by organizations that Preble Street partners with,” Friend said. “Preble Street is coordinating those services so they can have the greatest impact.”
The youth have regular meetings with a case manager who helps them set goals, access needed supports and work through important issues such as how to work with a landlord or reenter school.
A major draw is housing. The youth are able to live in apartments, and over the course of 18 months, they’re encouraged to take on more and more of the rent. Eventually, the youth cover the rent themselves, a strong step toward independence.
Six youth already have received an apartment and more will participate over time.
Following the 18-month time frames, Preble Street provides an additional year of less intensive “after-care,” Friend said.
“Even after 18 months, many youth are not fully ready to make it on their own,” Friend said. “Supporting them through that transition makes it much more likely that they will remain independent, which is our goal.”
80 people attended the forum on youth homelessness that was held Oct 18, 2011 in REM Forum. Moderator Cass Hirschfelt introduced the panelists:
- Betty Palmer – Executive Director, Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter
- Colleen Lachowicz – Director of School-Based Services, Kennebec Behavioral Health
- Bodhi Simpson, LCPC, ATR – Program Director, Teen Parent School Program, Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers
- Danielle Morse, LSW, CADC, RN – Halcyon House Director, Youth and Family Services
- Tony Veit, LSW – Youth and Family Services, Coordinator for Runaway and Homeless Youth Outreach Program
- Yvonne Mickles – Community Services Coordinator, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child and Family Services
Following a brief presentations by the panelists and a question and answer period, everyone at the forum began to brainstorm ideas about possible “next steps” to address this very important issue. These ideas have been grouped into three initiatives, with different teams working on each one.
The progress of the teams working on the initiatives will be updated and posted here on REMnet as available.
Initiatives – click to follow progress of each team
More info: 207-873-4444
Vision: Our youth have safe places to live, food to eat and all the services they deserve.
- Educating the Community concerning homeless youth.
on the Oct 18, 2011 forum.
Connecticut Homeless Youth Act
“Young, Homeless – and Invisible