City of Upper Arlington Fire Division Named a Safe Place

City of Upper Arlington Fire Division is now a designated a Safe Place in the central Ohio community. The buildings will display the yellow and black Safe Place sign, which signifies immediate help and safety for youth.

It is estimated over one million youth run away from home each year due to abuse, neglect, family conflicts and other issues. The Safe Place program is an option for young people who feel they have nowhere to turn. Columbus’ Safe Place initiative, operated by Huckleberry House, is part of a national network of Safe Place programs in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Nearly 20,000 community businesses and organizations nationwide display the Safe Place sign, making help readily available for youth in need.

“By making their fire stations a Safe Place, the city of Upper Arlington provides a safe alternative for runaway or homeless youth in their community,” states Becky Westerfelt, Executive Director of Huckleberry House.

Upper Arlington Assistant Fire Chief Christopher Zimmer states, “We are excited to collaborate with Huckleberry House. Our personnel strive daily to provide exceptional service to the community and keep residents safe.  Working with Huckleberry House is another example as to how we serve those in need.”

Huckleberry House is central Ohio’s Safe Place® agency and has 84 partner sites, including all 23 locations in the Columbus Metropolitan Library system. In addition to Safe Place sites, youth may also access immediate help via TXT 4 HELP, a text-for-support service for youth in crisis. Teens can text the word “safe” and their current location (address, city, state) to 69866 and receive a message with the closest Safe Place location and the number for the local youth shelter. Users also have the option to text interactively with a mental health professional for more help.

 

About Huckleberry House

Started in 1970 as a shelter for runaway teens, Huckleberry House serves young people and families in crisis. The organization’s four core programs include a 24-hour shelter for teens, an 18-month transitional living program for young adults who have experienced homelessness and are preparing to live independently in permanent housing, a youth outreach team that connects young people with resources and a family support counseling program with an expertise in adolescent cognitive behavior practices. To learn more visit: www.huckhouse.org.

About National Safe Place Network

National Safe Place Network (NSPN) provides quality training and technical support for youth and family service organizations across the country. Along with being a leading membership organization offering tailored organizational development, training and professional development packages, NSPN also operates the nationally recognized programs Safe Place, HTR3, and the Family and Youth Services Bureau’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Training and Technical Assistance Center (RHYTTAC). To learn more, please visit www.nspnetwork.org.

About the Upper Arlington Fire Division

The Upper Arlington Fire Division was established in 1930 and consisted of one fire engine, an assistant fire chief, a lieutenant and two firefighters.

Today, the Fire Division operates from two fire stations and the city is served by one engine/rescue unit, one ladder truck and three medic units.  The UAFD responds to more than 4,500 calls per year.  The UAFD provides fire prevention and suppression, emergency medical, technical rescue, and hazardous materials mitigation services. The UAFD has 55 firefighters and paramedics that work across three different shift consisting of 24-hours on-duty and then 48 hours off. The administrative team includes the Fire Chief, Assistant Fire Chief, the Fire Prevention Office, EMS/Training Office, a CARES manager and support staff.

The Fire Division offers a variety of health and safety programs to the community which includes CPR, Fire Prevention, the CARES program (Community Assistance, Referrals and Education), child car seat installation, station and truck tours, and public speaking engagements. For more information go to upperarlington.gov/fire-division

Janet Soltis Jefferson Award 2019 Finalist

One afternoon per month, you will find Janet Soltis in the Huckleberry House crisis shelter’s kitchen, baking with teenagers. The teenagers are there because they are experiencing some sort of crisis – neglect, abuse, homelessness, stress at home. Janet is there because she believes that “what the youth really need is to know that someone cares and that they are valued.”

Janet knows food and cooking are icebreakers for anyone, especially teenagers. Baking cookies or making Rice Crispy Treats gives the young people something to focus on, an activity in which to participate. Conversation usually starts with “my mom does it this way,” or “I remember my grandma used to crack eggs with one hand.” Very quickly, the teens open up. Janet’s open and caring personality is just laid back enough to make conversation safe.

Janet is still known to her former students, a few of whom work at Huckleberry House, as Ms. Soltis the middle school English teacher. When she comes to Huck House to bake with the teens, she brings sugar, flour, eggs, chocolate chips, and years of wisdom and expertise talking to teenagers. Her calming presence is something lacking in the lives of many Huck House youth.

At her core, Janet cares about the future of the young people in Columbus. Ten years ago, she started a scholarship fund to support young women in Huckleberry House programs. Since then, seventeen young women have received Homer-Soltis Scholarships. Most recipients are clients in our Transitional Living Program who are working hard to learn all the skills they will need to live independently after graduating from the Huck House program. Education is a big part of future success, and Janet wanted to be sure cost was not an obstacle for any young woman who wants to be in school.

Janet also loves dogs and is currently training her second therapy dog Sam. Eventually, he and Janet will visit nursing homes and other places that welcome therapy dogs. We are anxious for Sam to finish his training so he can come with Janet to Huck House.

Huckleberry House nominated Janet Soltis because she sets an example of valuing all young people. Janet was chosen as one of 20 WBNS-10TV and Lifeline of Ohio 2019 Jefferson Awards Finalists out of the 152 nominated. This is a distinguished honor and one which carries with it the distinction of the highest ideals and achievements of public service in this country. Read more about the Jefferson Awards and 2019 winners here.

Understanding the Scope of Youth Homelessness in America – National Network for Youth

Scope of Youth Homelessness in America

Written by |March 11, 2019

Recent Poll Reveals Disparity Between Wanting to Help Homeless Youths and Understanding the Scope of Youth Homelessness in America

The National Network for Youth believes in the importance of tapping into key data that will help drive the mission to end youth homelessness forward. This past February, we partnered with Ipsos, a global market research and consulting firm, to poll 1,005 adults above the age of 18 on youth homelessness issues.

Ninety-one percent of polled Americans believe dealing with the problem of youth homeless is important. Eighty-eight percent agreed the success of young Americans has a direct impact on the success of their communities. While most participants agreed youth homelessness should be addressed, many did not understand the full size and scope of the issue.

The poll asked Americans how many of the 35 million young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 in the United States they believe experience homelessness in a given year. Twenty-six percent responded “Don’t Know” and 23 percent believed that less than 2 million young adults experience homelessness. However, of the 35 million young adults in the United States, around 3.5 million young adults (or 10%) experience some form of homelessness in a given year.

Twenty-six percent of participants also answered “Don’t Know” to how many of the 21 million Americans youths between the ages 13 and 17 experience homelessness in a year. Twenty-four percent responded correctly that between 500,000 and 1 million youths experience homelessness.

Ipsos Support Government FundingFurther questions overwhelmingly revealed that approximately 80 percent of those polled believe the federal and state governments should prioritize reducing youth homelessness. About 80 percent also agreed that federal and state governments should prioritizing the funding for programs that help young homeless people finish high school and find a job.

Over three quarters (79 percent) of polled Americans agreed that young people who can find food and shelter by couch surfing should still be allowed to use public services providing food and shelter.

Though Americans have expressed concern and the desire for the government to address youth who experience homelessness, current federal definitions of youth homelessness are limited.

Of the eight definitions of homelessness used by federal agencies and programs, all but one use criteria that are appropriate for and reflective of the experiences of young people experiencing homeless. Those programs are ones administered by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Justice and Agriculture. These definitions focus on the safety of the youth’s living situation, rather than its location or duration.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) uses a more narrow definition that focuses on the way single adults, not youth or families, experience homelessness. This definition is also used by the federal government to inform the total number of young people considered to be homeless. Many youth stay temporarily with others or in motels rather than sleeping on the street. HUD’s current definition of homelessness deems these youth to be “at lower risk” and therefore not considered to be a priority.

Ipsos 91% ImportantThis restrictive definition of homelessness and youth homelessness results in undercounting the number of youths who are homeless, and influences the perceived prevalence of homelessness. When definitions and prioritizations based on definitions are limited, we lose the opportunity to prevent youth who may be facing homelessness for the first time from becoming the next generation of chronically homeless adults.

Last year Congress considered, and advanced out of committee, the Homeless Children and Youth Act, which would ensure that anyone considered homeless by any federal program is eligible to be assessed for HUD services, and ensures that HUD’s assessment of the number of homeless individuals reflect all forms of homelessness. Congress has continued to support funding for a wide range of programs to prevent and respond to young and young adult homelessness, but more resources are needed to address the scope of the challenge.

 

The National Network for Youth has been a public education and policy advocacy organization dedicated to the prevention and eradication of youth homelessness in America. NN4Y mobilizes over 300 members and affiliates –organizations that work on the front lines every day to provide prevention services and respond to runaways and youth experiencing homelessness and human trafficking.

Critical Need Alert – A Message from Becky Westerfelt

A message from executive director – Becky Westerfelt

In Central Ohio, we are fortunate to have the leadership of The Columbus Foundation when it comes to research and resources to address the critical needs of our community. Over the past several months, I have worked with representatives of the Columbus Foundation and other youth serving organizations to find meaningful strategies to help homeless youth and improve early childhood education.

Today, the Columbus Foundation announced a Critical Need Alert. The goal is to raise $1.5 million for “Our Kids” in 45 days to benefit the work of Huck House and five other organizations.

How will Huckleberry House use resources generated by The Columbus Foundation over the next six weeks?

Many youth in our community are unstably housed; they are couch surfing, moving among family members until they are 18, or generally don’t know where they will sleep night to night.  Huckleberry House will expand options for those youth. We will invest in our work to identify young people who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness to link them with housing provided by Huckleberry House and other community agencies. Some youth who are successful in independent living could easily fall behind without support. We will help those young people reduce the risk of future homelessness with a few months of rent and light case support.

The spirit of “Our Kids” demands that we invest in all the children in our community. Thank you for your continued support of our important work.

Becky