Learn more about the issues facing the young people we serve.

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Homeless Children and Youth Act takes a step closer to becoming law

On July 24, House Bill 1511 passed the Financial Services Committee. It is co-sponsored by Representatives Steve Stivers of Ohio and Dave Loebsack of Iowa. H.R. 1511 would broaden the definition of homelessness, making it easier for organizations like Huckleberry House to serve homeless youth.

“Last year, I was proud to announce the reintroduction of my bill that will more accurately count homeless youth in our communities – including many of those served by the Huckleberry House – an incredible organization who helps youth in Central Ohio who are facing homelessness, abuse, neglect, poverty, and many other issues,” Stivers said this week. “I am excited that this bill has taken one step closer to becoming law by passing the House Financial Services Committee. I will continue working to get this bill signed into law so we can better identify the scope of the youth homelessness, and ultimately dedicate more resources to addressing the issue.”

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In support of families

Screen Shot 2018-06-22 at 8.15.04 AMThe following letter was submitted to the Columbus Dispatch earlier this week. While policy has been reversed, the message is still relevant and significant.

Dear Editor,

For the past 15 years, I have been the Executive Director of Huckleberry House.  Huckleberry House provides services including shelter and transitional living housing to homeless and runaway youth.  During my time here I have learned this about children in shelters:  no matter how great your shelter is, and Huck House is a great shelter, children want and need their families.

In every other aspect of our country’s policies and values, we affirm that families are the best way to care for children.  We do this because we know that children need the love, guidance and support of committed adults if they are to thrive as adults.  We also know that when a family can’t care for their children, the best second option is a foster family.  Yes, it is true that families aren’t always perfect, but they are the best option for raising children.

We must remain vigilant in upholding a commitment to families.

If we think there will be no lingering affects to these children, we are lying to ourselves. Even a cursory review of research and training for foster and adoption programs reveals that we know a great deal about what happens to children in both the short and long run.  We know that the grief is deep and profound, we know that separation can affect the cognitive and social development of children, and we know that childhood trauma leads to chronic health issues. If you want to read about this for yourself, you can go to the Federal Department of Health and Human Services webpage.

So, please score your political points without harming these children.  Caring for and raising children is a privilege.  We used to know that.

Sincerely,

Becky Westerfelt

Executive Director, Huckleberry House

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How does LGBTQ+ affect homeless youth?

By Leslie Scott, LSW

FINAL PRIDE Blog for 61118

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With a little help from our friends…

Each year, Huck House is invited by See Kids Dream to help teach young students about how they can make the world a better place. Guess what happens. Yep! These young students go out and make the world a better place! This year, the students at Ohio Avenue Elementary School, with help from their advisers from Crimson Cup Coffee, created this awesome video to spread awareness about Huck House.

 

Ohio Avenue Elementary School was featured on the news (click here to watch) for the help they are giving to Huck House. On an equally inspirational, and more serious, note, their school was the topic of an article in The Atlantic last month: “One Ohio School’s Quest to Rethink Bad Behavior.”

Thank you to the See Kids Dream Club at Ohio Avenue Elementary School for making the world a better place.

 

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100 Day Challenge to End Youth Homelessness

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Last summer and fall, Huckleberry House and six other Columbus agencies participated in A Way Home America’s 100-Day Challenge. The 100-Day Challenge is a project designed to stimulate intense collaboration, innovation, and execution, all in pursuit of a wildly ambitious 100-day goal.

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Supporting a bill that would allow young people to seek housing AND education

On May 17,  in Washington, DC, the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee held a hearing about homlessness. Columbus was well represented at the hearing by Ann Bischoff, CEO of Star House. At the invitation of Congressman Steve Stivers, Huckleberry House executive director Becky Westerfelt submitted a letter of testimony to the hearing. The text of Becky’s letter follows. It focuses on one part of H.R. 1661, the “Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017” that would positively affect Huck House youth:  student occupancy rules. Should the bill become law, youth will no longer have to choose between thriving or merely getting by. Read more

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End of school year stress and your teen

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The end of the school year can be an overwhelming time for many high school students. Unfortunately, it can also be difficult for many young people to recognize and articulate when they are feeling stressed. Rather than saying “I feel stressed”  your child might say “I have a stomachache” or “I’m not sleeping at night.” Some teens may become irritable, impatient, angry, or even aggressive when they are feeling stressed. Others may become anxious, scared, or panicky. As a parent, paying attention to the signs and symptoms of stress can help you recognize and help your child if he or she is struggling. Read more

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Positive Youth Development on a National Scale

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by Becky Westerfelt, Executive Director

At Huck House we have a couple of concepts that drive our work, but the one that drives all of our work is Positive Youth Development.  This approach says that what we say to youth is not as effective as what we do with youth.  We know that experience is a tough and persistent teacher so we work hard to make sure its lessons support traits and skills that will be a positive influence for teens.  We think about the unique qualities and skills of each youth as an opportunity to nurture characteristics that will be life-long assets.  We know that the best way to accomplish this development is within positive, supportive adult and community relationships.

We are currently witnessing Positive Youth Development on a national scale, and I am thrilled to be here in this moment.  The thousands of participating youth and supporting adults have created a spectacle of adolescent development at its very best.

People often ask me, “what can we do about all of these young people who are problems?”  Let’s take our lessons from the March For Our Lives.  First listen without the patronizing filter of knowing what’s best.  If we let go of our adult expertise, we just might learn something.  Next, ask what they need and want from us.  Maybe that means buying the pizza after the meeting instead of running the show.  Finally, don’t lose sight of the point.  Our task is to help the young people in our lives become their best selves – even if that means letting them come to a different conclusion.  In the end we will all be better for it.

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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