IHOP and Conversation with Homeless Youth

By Leslie Scott, MSSA LSW CTP-C

 

Even though it’s uncomfortable, we need to talk about homelessness.” – Transitional Age Homeless Youth

 

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $6.1 million to the Community Shelter Board through the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program. Unlike previous programs that have under taken to end Transitional Age Youth Homelessness (youth ages 18 to 24 years old), this program has mandated youth be a part of the decision-making process, by deciding where the funds go, how they are spent, and how we improve Transitional Age Youth homeless services.

 

The Community Shelter Board (CSB) has since formed the Youth Action Board (YAB), which is a group of Transitional Age Youth who are or have experienced homelessness and are willing to give feedback on Franklin County homeless services. I have spoken with some of the youth on the Youth Action Board and wanted to share what I learned. I cannot say enough about the strength, dedication, and endurance each of these individuals have. I hope you enjoy their interviews, as much as I did.

 

What is one thing you want someone who is not nor has never been homeless to understand about the homeless experience?

Destiny H: Even though it’s uncomfortable, we need to talk about homelessness. People need to know that there are 15-year-old girls who are homeless or being sex trafficked. If people know, they will do something about it.

ANYONMOUS YOUTH: When I first went into the shelter, my son was only 5 weeks only and everyone at the shelter would talk to me about my son, which made it easier. There was an instant bond. Young adults need extra support, guidance, and an example of stability.

 

What kept you and people you know in the homeless cycle?

Destiny H: Transitional Age Youth are not prepared for life after being homeless.  Youth need independent living skills, so they can have experience and know how to be adults after they have stable housing.

ANYONMOUS YOUTH: I was in foster care at 7 years old, then placed with relatives who were abusive. At 14 years old, I moved to Columbus, OH with my aunt. This taught me “if something goes wrong, I can get out” when I should have been thinking about building stability for myself. Almost like the “grass is greener”. I am grateful for my current housing, as my only other option was low income housing after I left the shelter. Low income housing is very poor quality and I didn’t want that for my child. Instead of thinking “beggars can’t be choosers” think about helping someone find a “higher chance of succeeding”.

 

If you had another word for homelessness what would it be?

Destiny H: ‘Homelessness’ is a terrible word. I would use ‘without housing’ or ‘struggling’. ‘Struggling’ is a good option, because it doesn’t identify what someone is experiencing, while communicating they need help.

ANYONMOUS YOUTH: For me, one situation I experience, isn’t my identity. I don’t identify as homeless. I would replace this word with “needing help” or “just trying to figure it out”. My life taught me that I needed to be “independent” and do things on my own, I am learning now that there is a balance to being independent.

 

What do we get right about homeless services?

Destiny H: “That we need help”

ANYONMOUS YOUTH: When I started the Transitional Living Program (TLP), I was given a packet that included all the information I needed. It was very helpful and made me feel like an adult, while also being supported.

 

What is missing from our current services that you need? Or needed?

Destiny H: When I was in the YWCA Family Shelter, I was pregnant and sick. Shelter rules require each person to leave during the day time, without exception, but one staff member noticed I was sick and went to management (without me asking) to advocate for my needs. He continued to check in on me, give me snacks, and ask me how I was. This made a big difference for me. We need more staff that are trained to identify our needs, be caring, and advocate for us. Advocating is very important.

ANYONMOUS YOUTH: In the shelter, I had great casework, but what I needed was someone helping me with “what should you do” rather than “what have you done.” Young Adults need help planning for the long-term and understanding how to succeed. Programs that focused on me meeting with staff to discuss what actions I had taken were not helpful, as I didn’t know how to start. I also like that TLP allows me to make my own decisions and treats me as an adult, but still helps me with guidance and advice on next steps. TLP is more than a roof to sleep under for me.

 

What are five things you would change about current homeless services?

Destiny H:

  • Allow pregnant homeless youth or parenting homeless parents to be eligible for child care, prior to finding employment or enrolling in school.
  • Have shelters and facilities specifically for Transitional Age Youth, as well as staff who are willing to go to the youth. Even if it’s unsafe.
  • Have access to services in the shelters, such as job training, job linkage, and more.
  • We need to find better ways to assess a youth’s needs, then have staff to help them with those needs. Everyone needs to be treated the same way.
  • If a youth has family or friends who can provide housing, offer the youth transportation assistance to get to their family or friends.

ANYONMOUS YOUTH:

  • In the shelter, having to plan where to be each day makes it difficult to address needs and think with a clear head. I would change this rule.
  • Programs unconsciously reinforce survival instincts and need to focus on changing those instincts.

 

What was most helpful to you going through Huckleberry House program(s)?

Destiny H: The staff I have worked with are helpful, they care, and I immediately felt I could trust them. At other agencies for Transitional Age Youth, I like that there is chaos with boundaries. We can make our own decisions, able to roam, have access to a gym, access to laundry, and are safe. We don’t have to worry about our stuff being stolen or not sleeping at night or worse. Transitional Age Youth want boundaries, safety, and nonjudgmental interactions with other people.

ANYONMOUS YOUTH:  TLP “gives you room to breathe.” Staff also know and are accepting of when you fall off the wagon.

 

What else do you want people to know about your experience being homeless?

Destiny H: I have felt different and questioned the “system” since I was young. When I was diagnosed with ADHD/ADD, I was excluded from traditional classrooms and my peers at school started to bully me. Now, I am trying to make it on my own without any government assistance, after being homeless. When you have been homeless, you have to live differently and moving into housing is hard. I used to wake up in the middle of the night, in my new apartment, worrying someone would steal my stuff. Then I remembered where I was, but I was already having a panic attack.

ANYONMOUS YOUTH: I want people to understand that homeless persons or persons using welfare aren’t a stereotype of abusing the system, but people trying to get on their feet with no support. When your family isn’t there to support you, the system becomes your support. “We’re just people.”  I want someone experiencing homelessness to know you don’t need to be embarrassed.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital – On Our Sleeves

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

One in five children in the United States has a mental health condition. That’s one in five children in a homeroom class, on a baseball team or on the street where you live. That child, in fact, may be your own.

But there’s HOPE.

Helping our children’s mental health is something EVERYONE can do — not just parents and caregivers.

It’s time to have a national conversation about children’s mental health. It’s time to raise our voices for this important cause.

On Our Sleeves is proud to join the mental health community for Mental Health Month this May.

Children’s Mental Health Week

Mental health issues start younger, and their impact is broader, than most people realize. And because kids don’t wear their thoughts on their sleeves, we don’t know what they might be going through.

More than 10 percent of children 8 to 11 years old have experienced a mental illness. The percentage doubles for teenagers. Half of all lifetime mental illness, starts by age 14. That number increases to 75% by age 24.

From May 5 to May 10, the mental health community shines the light on children’s mental health. Join Nationwide Children’s Hospital in raising your voice for kids everywhere.

May 9: National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

 

May 9 is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. This day highlights the importance of caring for a child’s mental health and its importance in a child’s development.

Mental wellness and coping skills learned during childhood establish the foundation for future social, emotional and academic success. That’s why it’s important to recognize when a child is struggling and get them help as early as possible. All of us can help in improving mental health for children.

Tune in on May 9 for an incredible success and advocacy story.

 

This blog article is from Nationwide Children’s and their #OnOurSleeves Campaign.

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.

Give Yoga Gives Back to Huck House

GIVE Yoga exists to build community around yoga for the good of the individual and the good of the world. GIVE Yoga is committed to Giving Yoga, Improving Strong Communities, and Developing Leaders. To fulfill this commitment, Huck House has been chosen as a partner nonprofit to which they will provide yoga to our transitional living program clients.

We envision that a practice of yoga, meditation and mindfulness will give our clients a new healthy coping skill. A lot of our clients suffer from sleep issues and unhealthy habits. We hope that the new program will support healing. Additionally, we hope to see some of our clients feeling inspired by the physical health benefits of yoga as an exercise, and feel more driven to continue to invest in their own physical well-being. 

 

Give Yoga funding will ensure up to 12 classes taught by Cecilia Shanahan, a Registered Yoga Teacher and Qualified Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher. She will focus her practice on our young women in our transitional living program who are victims of domestic violence as well as our young expecting mothers.

 

Huck House Youth Outreach Program: Helping Young People Gain Access to Housing

Our five-member youth outreach team has added to the list of ways they can help young people. They were recently authorized by the Community Shelter Board to certify homelessness. Without this certification, young people have a hard time accessing alternative housing such as rapid re-housing or permanent supportive housing. Usually,  individuals must stay in an adult homeless shelter in order to be added to the list for housing options.

According to YOP manager Kyra Crockett-Hodge, many young people experiencing homelessness prefer not to go to adult shelters for many reasons: they prefer to be with their peers, they are afraid of theft, and they generally feel vulnerable in adult shelters.

Knowing that many young people do not use adult shelters, the Huck House YOP team offers a different entry point for accessing housing.

“We know that young people are more likely to accept guidance and help from people they trust,” said Rebecca Westerfelt, Huck House’s executive director. “One of the strengths of our YOP team is that they build relationships with youth going through difficult times and can offer appropriate help.”

Bexley and Wellington SLEEP OUT!

April is the month to SLEEP OUT! Beyond the 2nd annual Sleep Out! taking place on Friday, April 12th at COSI, Huckleberry House’s proven programs will benefit from sleepers at Bexley High School and The Wellington School. Read below to learn more about these two upcoming events helping to end youth homelessness in our community.

Bexley High School Sleep Out!

Q&A with Anna Schottenstein, Bexley Teacher

  • Why are you hosting a Sleep Out at Bexley High School?
    • We are hosting the Sleep Out at Bexley High School because it is important for students to be empowered to make a change in their community, become educated about local issues and teach others, and become more active in the community without just giving money. This provides students with experiences they will not have in a classroom but are essential life lessons.
  • What will the event look like at Bexley?
    • Throughout the night about 150-200 students will attend the sleep out. We will have music, movies, s’mores, a cookout, games, activities and various ways to raise money for the Huck House. We will also do a collection drive to get high need items. While students will be having a lot of fun at the event, we also spend a significant amount of time reflecting on how fortunate we are to only sleep outside for one night and have nice homes and loving families to return home to every other night.
  • What is your goal for the event?
    • Our goal for the event is to raise awareness for homelessness in central Ohio, while also having a great experience. Students plan and organize all aspects of the event preparing them to be the leaders of tomorrow. We also hope to raise $5,000 for the Huck House.

The Wellington School Sleep Out!

Q&A with Max Thesing & Katz Kadlic, Seniors at Wellington

  • Why are you hosting a Sleep Out at Wellington?
    • We are hosting a Sleep Out at Wellington to raise awareness for youth homelessness in central Ohio. We both attended the first annual Sleep Out! last year and were inspired to host our very own.  It was an incredibly uncomfortable experience and no one should have to go through being homeless.  We believe hosting the Wellington Sleep Out is a great way for the our community to experience being homeless to an extent.
  • What will the event look like at Wellington?
    • The Wellington Sleep Out will be similar to the Huckleberry House Sleep Out. At Wellington, we will be sleeping outside to create an uncomfortable environment.  The two of us will give an informational meeting inside of the school before going outside.  There will be various activities to do such as watch movies regarding homelessness, play board games, etc.  The next morning, we will be providing people with breakfast food and packing up the event.

  • How are you raising awareness for the event?
    • We are making announcements, hosting a guest speaker, creating a website, and selling t-shirts.  The two of us have made many announcements to the high school during morning meeting for those who are interested in attending the Sleep Out. We also hosted guest speaker Kyra Crockett-Hodge.  Kyra is the head of the youth outreach program at Huckleberry House.  She spoke about what she does at Huckleberry House and her experience at last year’s Huckleberry House Sleep Out.  We created a website with general information about the Wellington Sleep Out. We are accepting donations to Huckleberry House on our website and selling t-shirts.

 

  • What will you do with all the funds raised?
    • We will be donating all of our proceeds to the Huckleberry House so they can continue to do the incredible work they’re already doing in the central Ohio community.

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.

National Safe Place Week – by Emily Long

NSP Week 2019 - FB CoverThis week is National Safe Place Week, a week that not many may know about, but is very important. Around a year ago, I was on my way to Louisville, KY to learn about Safe Place. I was recently informed that I was selected to be a Columbus Foundation Summer Fellow, and my placement was at Huckleberry House working on a project called Safe Place. I was absolutely thrilled and excited. Safe Place is a youth outreach program that helps those in crisis get to safety. I was able to learn from the National Safe Place office in Louisville about the ins and outs of the program. At Huckleberry House, I was able to use this information to reconnect our Safe Place program with the Columbus Fire Department, create a new operations manual, and coordinate logistics for the sustainability of the program.

My summer at Huckleberry House working on Safe Place was impactful. It is so important to provide a way for youth in crisis to get to Huckleberry House. Our city is continuously growing and youth homelessness is a real challenge for central Ohio. I learned at Huck House to put people and relationships first to help guide this program. Safe Place is truly about the youth, and the number one priority is to keep them safe. I am grateful for the opportunity to work on Safe Place last summer and to work with all the folks at Huck House. If the program helps even just one youth find their way to Huck House, it is worth it to keep our Columbus youth safe!

Written by Emily Long, Huck House 2019 Columbus Foundation Fellow

Sleep Out! Team Spotlight – New Leaders Council Columbus

New Leader's Council Columbus Group

 

New Leaders Council is a 501 (c) (3) public charity dedicated to educating a new generation of leaders and to providing those leaders with the tools they need to succeed.

  • Why is your team sleeping out on April 12th, 2019? To be a part of an effort to raise awareness and money for a growing and often forgotten population of fellow humans in our Columbus community
  • What does your team hope to gain from the Sleep Out? We hope to that be experiencing even a small slice of the reality faced by the homeless will leave us with a better understanding of the harsh reality lived by so many.
  • What brings your team together for this event? We all understand that Columbus can never truly by a city of Us until all people are able to access all opportunities, especially basic human needs like shelter and food.

Support the New Leaders Council – Columbus team in their commitment to raise awareness and funds and Sleep Out! to end youth homelessness in central Ohio. Donate to their team page HERE or register your own team and raise awareness and funds HERE.

Sleep Out! Team Spotlight – Columbus Gives Back

Columbus Gives Back Team

 

Columbus Gives Back is a nonprofit committed to making volunteering easy, accessible, and fun for young adults in the Columbus community. They have a team of employees and volunteers that are coming together to Sleep Out! and support our mission.

  • Why is your team sleeping out on April 12th, 2019? Columbus Gives Back is sleeping out because we believe that no youth should have to experience homelessness. We hope to raise money and awareness about this issue in our community and the resources available at Huckleberry House.
  • What does your team hope to gain from the Sleep Out? I hope that our team gains a sense of understanding of what it is like to sleep outside at night if you don’t have anywhere to call home. Experiencing homelessness by way of a simulation such as this, can bring attention to this issue in ways that a report or an article cannot. I hope our team can use this experience to be better advocates for these causes in the future.
  • What brings your team together for this event? We’re a diverse group of individuals united by our love of volunteering and making Columbus a better place. Our community will never achieve it’s full potential without addressing youth homelessness.

Support the Columbus Gives Back team in their commitment to raise $1,000 and Sleep Out! to end youth homelessness in central Ohio. Donate to their team page HERE or register your own team and raise awareness and funds HERE.