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Do we Understand Homelessness? | By: Leslie Scott

My attention was recently captured by a PBS New Hour article titled “How Do You Define ‘homeless’ in America”. This is an ongoing question many homeless advocates find themselves asking and trying to answer. Depending on where you work or with what population, the answer often changes. Not just from person to person or agencies, but there is also a lack of homogeneity within state laws, federal laws, and government programs. The United States Federal Government currently has three different definitions for homelessness, each with different criteria and purpose.

McKinney-Vento Act or U.S. Department of Education Definition of Homelessness: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Definition: Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) Definition:
Section 725(2) of the McKinney-Vento Act10 defines “homeless children and youths” as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence… (U.S. Department of Education , 2017).

 

This definition does not include those in foster care, transitioning out of foster care, or those couch surfing (moving from couch to couch, due to lack of funds for safe/stable housing) (Dr. Hoback & Anderson; U.S. Department of Education , 2017).

 

This definition is currently used by various US federal programs (U.S. Department of Education , 2017).

HUD operates under categories of homelessness, ranging from Cat 1: Literally homeless, Cat 2: Imminent Risk of Homeless, Cat 3: Homeless Under other Federal Statutes, and Cat 4: Fleeing/Attempting to Flee DV (Homelessness Assistance, n.d.).

 

This definition is used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to determine eligibility for programs and to determine which programs would qualify for funding from HUD.

Persons “not more than 21 years of age…for whom it is not possible to live in a safe environment with a relative and who have no other safe alternative living arrangement” (youth.gov, n.d.).

 

This definition is currently used for youth serving programs.

 

Homeless services (including Huckleberry House) have to operate within that system, often resulting in various intake criteria amongst programs within an agency. This prevents not only individuals and families from accessing services, but also may eliminate them from data measurements of the homeless population, reducing the overall awareness and funding projections. This leads many to speculate, if we do not understand homelessness or misrepresent the need of homeless, how can we tackle this issue?

If we were able to operate under one single definition, not only would ALL homeless programs operate under the same funding guidelines, but so would research projects and annual counts which create the yearly data figures for the homeless population. All while creating a standardized understanding of the word “homeless”. Huckleberry House’s belief is that a universal definition of homelessness would make it easier to provide services to the homeless and help to eradicate homelessness.

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Leslie Scott, LSW CTP-C
Family Support Program Therapist Intern
Candidate, Master of Social Administration, Case Western Reserve University

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Runaway Love | Ludacris ft. Mary J. Blige

Runaway Love by Ludacris ft. Mary J. Blige was recorded in 2006, but its message is still relevant today. Abuse, alcohol and drug addiction, violence and teen pregnancy are among the reasons youth runaway or are put out of their home. Youth and families in Huck House programs are dealing with some of the most difficult problems imaginable. No matter how hopeless the situation may seem, we offer proven programs and committed people who know how to help young people and families take control of their lives. So they can move past the circumstances they’re in, and move toward the future they want.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the Huck House 24 hour crisis line at (614) 294-5553 or visit the Crisis Shelter at 1421 Hamlet St. Columbus, Ohio 43201     (614) 294-8097

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Jacob’s Story | By: Kyra Crockett-Hodge

Jacob was hanging out at a local library when he came across my business card, which I left a stack of in the foyer. Jacob called the YOP SHOP and told me his story and that he needed help finding housing.  He asked if he could come to the YOP SHOP to meet me to share more of his story.  Jacob is 18 years old, tall and lanky, and when he showed up, his huge, child-like smile greeted me as soon as he walked through the door. We sat down and he continued to tell me how he came to his current circumstances.

Jacob was only 15 when he lost his mother due to cancer. With no next to kin, only smaller siblings in tow, FCCS sent him to West Virginia, where his biological father lived, but with whom he had no relationship with. With the partnership of his grief from losing his beloved mother and anger for his father not being there, his relationship with his dad struggled. Jacob ended up in foster care in West Virginia, where he saved up his money for a Greyhound bus back to Columbus the minute he turned 18. He hoped to return to Ohio to find his younger siblings and a sense of normalcy.

Jacob was determined to defy the odds and enrolled himself in school. At school, he met some friends who told him about an abandoned apartment building in their neighborhood.  This apartment became Jacob’s living arrangement. He spoke of hiding his things in a closet, using materials as a pallet and praying that contractors didn’t come in and find him night to night. To make his situation even worse, one-day Jacob was leaving a friend’s house and was shot in the hip. He was shot just because he was not known in the neighborhood. Because Jacob didn’t have insurance or any adult to seek guidance from, Jacob hobbled around town for a week until we, at Huck House, saw him and made him go to the hospital.

At Huck House, we linked Jacob to services such as counseling to deal with his grief, healthcare, food benefits and bus passes to get to and from appointments, but he never could land on both his feet. I spent many hours with Jacob and worried extensively about what his time unsupervised would bring him. Unfortunately, there were times when Jacob stole from grocery stores to eat and got caught, which resulted in going in and out of court for misdemeanors. With misdemeanors and court, comes fines, more cases and probation, which makes it increasingly difficult to maintain a decent job and any hope for the future.

Jacob has been robbed and beat up several times and because of his transient lifestyle, there were often weeks that I didn’t hear from him, with no phone and no address to consistently locate him at. Upon waiting for his name to come up on the many waitlists for housing that he was on, Jacob met a woman, with whom he had a child and is now trying to figure out how to end the cycle for his son. Jacob has been working full time consistently for about 4 months now and decided to finally go into an adult shelter to seek assistance for his new family. Homelessness is real and the many facets that come along with it are even more real.  Because of their situations, they are subjected to vulnerabilities most wouldn’t know how to handle. As a society, we failed Jacob and must prevent young people from continuing to fall through the cracks.

 

Written by Kyra Crockett-Hodge, Youth Outreach Program Team Leader

 

Note: Name has been changed for the sake of privacy.

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“These children are not someone else’s, they belong to all of us.”

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In November 2017, Becky Westerfelt, executive director of Huckleberry House, participated in a Columbus Metropolitan Club panel titled “Unexpected Face of Homelessness: Teens on the Street.” We were overwhelmed by the interest from community members to continue the conversation. So we  invited interested people to a casual lunch at the Huck House Crisis Shelter this afternoon.

One of the points Becky made during the panel discussion in November was that we know these children before they turn 18. We see them in our schools and after school programs and at our outreach programs. We should not be surprised to see them in homeless or unstably housed situations when they turn 18. Instead of treating them like they are someone else’s children, central Ohio needs to think of young people as belonging to all of us.

Today’s conversation was based on a framing question:

In our everyday lives, how can we help a child who is not in our immediate family?

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No One Deserves to be Without a Home | By: Zac and Youth in our Crisis Shelter

“I just wish they would have listened to me.” Young people everywhere deal with a vast amount of daily struggles. Only a handful are able to come forward about some of those struggles, especially if it means leaving home, knowing they have no place to go. Abuse, neglect, misunderstandings and unacceptance are just a few of the things preventing young people from living what we would call a “normal” life at home. Whether it’s just a rebellious attitude or a teen who has “come out” about their sexuality, no one deserves to be without a home. During these times, youth would rather risk their own lives than be put through these trials and tribulations at home.

Support systems are extremely important throughout life especially during times like these. A good support system could prevent so many negative outcomes, it could provide resources, ideas for self-care and most of all… understanding. Outreach is another form of letting the young people know about local resources and support groups. The more we put ourselves out there to these individuals, the more we will see progress in our communities with youth.

This article was written in a group setting by current Crisis Shelter youth, lead by Crisis Staff member Zac.

 

  • 1 in 7 young people between the ages 10 and 18 will run away
  • Youth ages 12 to 17 are more at risk of homelessness than adults
  • 75% of runaways are females
  • Estimates of the proportion of pregnant homeless girls are between 6% and 22%
  • Between 20% and 40% of runaway and homeless youth identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ)
  • 46% of runaway and homeless youth reported being physically abused, 38% reported being emotionally abused, and 17% reported being forced into unwanted sexual activity by a family or household member
  • 75% of homeless or runaway youth have dropped out or will drop out of school

(taken from ncsl.org)

Homeless Youth Face Dangerously Cold Temperatures

During the cold month of January, our blog focus is homelessness. Bryant Maddrick, of ABC6, summarizes how Huckleberry House and Star House help homeless teens during this time.

http://abc6onyourside.com/news/local/organizations-help-homeless-teens-during-dangerous-cold

Helping Homeless Youth not only Survive, but Thrive

It boils down to helping homeless youth not only survive, but thrive.
It’s one thing to provide a homeless young person with a roof over her head. It’s another thing to teach that person how to successfully maintain a stable home so she can focus on her goals and improve her life. The TLP program helps transition-age youth, ages 17-21, develop essential life skills that will serve them well beyond their time in the program.

Getting Angel and Marcus “Home”

Traditionally, the TLP program works with individual young men or women. Some of them have children of their own. But when we met Angel, our program had the unique opportunity to help support an entire young family.

Angel was a good student with a lot of potential. But due to her mom’s mental health issues, she frequently found herself out of the home without a place to stay. Then Angel became pregnant. Between trying to parent her daughter and find a stable place to live, Angel’s school attendance began to suffer. Her high school counselor took notice and contacted Huck House.

The Huck House TLP team connected with Angel and her boyfriend, Marcus, when they were living in the family shelter, desperately trying to find a way to care for their infant son. When the family entered the TLP program, the young couple received the support they needed to flourish. With a safe place to stay, they were able to care for their son and focus on their individual goals at the same time. Both Angel and Marcus were committed to giving their son a better start in life than what they had experienced. And so, with their team’s support, they worked hard to set and achieve goals. Ultimately, Marcus was able to secure a well-paying, full-time job while Angel finished high school.

As Angel and Marcus prepared to finish the program, their TLP team helped the young family secure permanent low-income housing. Marcus will continue to work while Angel attends Columbus State. The couple is using the skills gained in the program to parent their son and maintain a secure and healthy home for him and themselves.
“Angel and Marcus are amazing young people with a true desire to improve their futures and break the cycle of generational poverty for their own child,” says Amanda Glauer, LSW, TLP Team Leader. “The TLP program provided the guidance and support they needed to learn how to make it on their own. Now, instead of a young family on the streets or in a shelter, they’re living independently and thriving. They just needed the opportunity to make that happen.”

Using Strengths to Build Safe, Supportive Homes

It’s ultimately about helping teens and families use their strengths to build a safe and supportive home.
Whether we’re working with young people from our Crisis Program, youth from our Transitional Living Program, or families who come to us specifically for counseling, the young people and families we serve all face tough challenges. But they also have strengths. We leverage those strengths to help teens and families develop skills they can use to tackle their issues and to grow as individuals and families.

Getting Brian “Home”

When parents and teens don’t see eye to eye, it can lead to a lot of fighting and discord. Sometimes, it leads to depression and even suicidal thoughts.

While 16-year-old Brian was fortunate to have a safe home and a loving family, he wasn’t really “at home” there. When his school referred him to the Family Support Program, Brian wasn’t eating. He wasn’t going to school. In fact, he wasn’t doing much of anything other than spending time in a dark room all day.

His parents were clearly concerned. But a lack of communication as well as cultural differences—Brian’s parents are immigrants, while Brian was born and raised in the U.S.—made it hard for them to connect. Brian’s mom was pushing him to “snap out of it” by getting involved in activities like sports. Problem was, Brain just wasn’t interested. And the things he did want to do were not supported or appreciated by his parents. The constant conflict led to severe depression.

During counseling sessions with Brain and his mom, we helped the family find ways to better understand each other. When mom gave permission for Brian to pursue some of his own interests, such as drama club and math club, Brian began to come out of his shell. In return, Brian also started to show interest in the things that were important to his parents, such as learning about and participating in the family’s culture.
“We knew this family had a lot of strengths and that mom clearly wanted to help her son, she just wasn’t sure how,” says Abbey Wollschleger, LISW-S, Family Support Program Team Leader. “By working with them on communication skills, we helped this family better understand each other and create a much more supportive home. Brian has shown tremendous improvement. He’s not just getting out of bed and going to school now; he is enjoying his life and his relationship with his family.”

Getting Kids Connected

It comes down to getting kids connected to services and support that can help.

At-risk young people too often fall through the cracks because they do not know where to go for help, or they have a hard time asking for support. The Youth Outreach Program addresses that need by meeting kids where they are and by providing a safe, convenient place for youth to find us. Between our youth outreach runs and the YOP Shop, our goal is to find as many at-risk youth as possible and help them connect to services and resources that can support them in developing life skills, setting and reaching goals, and creating a road map to the future they want.

Getting Ameila “Home”

When 22-year-old Amelia came to the YOP Shop, she was homeless and pregnant. She had a juvenile record, an eviction, and was legally blind. While she had a strong desire to get her life on track and provide for her baby, she had no idea where to start.

At the YOP Shop, she found the direction and guidance she needed. First, Amelia’s YOP counselor helped her make and get to doctors’ appointments so she could get contacts and literally see more clearly. Then the YOP program helped her put her future in focus, too.

By connecting Amelia to the Juvenile Reentry Assistance Program (JRAP), Amelia received the support and guidance she needed to start the process of getting her juvenile record expunged, removing a major obstacle to reaching her future employment and housing goals. Her YOP Shop team also helped her find resources to aid in her job search. The team was able to secure temporary housing through a program that provides support for parenting mothers. Then, the YOP Shop workers advocated on Amelia’s behalf to secure a permanent apartment for her.

To help Amelia provide the best start for her new baby, Huckleberry House staff set up an online baby shower drive. Through generous donations, Amelia received many baby necessities including clothing, a crib, and diapers, all things she needed to give her child the best start in life.

Instead of Amelia and her baby facing life on the streets, today they are secure in their own home. Amelia continues to work and provide for her daughter. With the YOP Shop’s support, she continues to see the future she wants and to move closer to it every day.

Tiffany Hiibner

Now We’re Getting Somewhere

At Huckleberry House, getting youth to a better place wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of individual and corporate donors who believe in our work and our commitment to helping young people move through challenges and move toward their goals. We are grateful to the tremendous support of all of our contributors. We asked a good friend of Huck House to tell us why she gives.

“Being new to Columbus, I was interested in learning about and serving the community. Through my employer, I heard about Huck House and was immediately drawn to the cause. I learned more about the Huck House mission, and I knew I had to get involved.
Here’s why… As an adoptive parent, I had the chance to interact quite a bit with my daughter’s birth parents throughout the pregnancy and birth. Through our conversations, I learned about their past. They both had faced very tough times growing up, which led to continued troubles in adulthood. Their struggles brought them to a place where they were not going to be able to keep their child, a decision nobody would ever want to make. I saw their struggles, and I knew that, had they had a safe place like Huck House available to them, life could have taken a much different path.

I see them, my daughter’s birth parents, in the many faces of the clients that Huck House serves each and every day. I will forever be indebted to them for giving me the gift of being a mother. Today, my daughter is a beautiful, loving, funny, smart five-year-old. Truly, I view her birth parents as heroes for making such a difficult choice that ultimately benefited my daughter and gave her the opportunity to thrive in a healthy and loving household.

By supporting Huck House, I feel I am giving a little something back to them – possibly helping others who might be in similar situations now or in the future. I feel lucky to be associated with such an amazing organization.”

Tiffanie Hiibner
Huckleberry House Board Member and Supporter