Beaverton (OR) Faith-Based Organization's Homeless Youth Project: 750 Community Volunteers Work Through 17 Different Churches & Government Agencies Who Act As Hosts By Taking Turns Housing Youth

January 2017 provided great memories for Lois O’Halleran’s children, students at St. Mary of the Valley and Jesuit. Snow had closed the schools for nine days, so it was a veritable second Christmas vacation. They sledded, made snowmen and flung snowballs. They’d come inside to warm up with hot chocolate as their snow-encrusted clothes spun in the dryer.   https://catholicsentinel.org/Content/News/Local/Article/Family-Promise-Making-a-difference-for-homeless-kids/2/35/38312   O’Halleran, a parishioner at St. Juan Diego and member of an unofficial coalition seeking solutions to homelessness, delighted in their fun. And yet she was simultaneously haunted by the knowledge that for homeless children the snowstorms were a nightmare. She imagined them, trapped in cold cars, having to brave the cold for bathroom trips — bathroom trips where? — and not daring to play in the snow because their wet clothes would stay wet.  This wasn’t just a handful of children — although that would already be too many. During the 2016–17 school year, 1,720 students in the Beaverton School District experienced homelessness. Of those, 97 were unsheltered — not sleeping on their mother’s friend’s couch, not doubled up with an aunt’s family, not even at a shelter. They had no place to stay.  It’s not just Beaverton. Oregon has a disproportionately high rate of homelessness. The Oregon Department of Education reported almost 22,000 students homeless at some point in the 2017-18 school year.   O’Halleran, a woman always in motion, together with several others decided their coalition needed to act. They had already taken the first steps, voting in June 2016 to open Family Promise of Beaverton — a group of volunteers from various churches working to provide shelter for families.   “We pushed like crazy,” said O’Halleran. “We were opening no matter what.”  Family Promise of Beaverton welcomed its first guests in March 2018.   O’Halleran praises the Family Promise model, a national success story. “They have a template that allows busy people to make a difference.”  Family Promise of Beaverton’s 750 volunteers work through a coalition of 17 church communities and government organizations. Each takes a turn to provide shelter and meals for three or four homeless families, a week at a time. Homeless parents work closely with the Family Promise caseworker, who helps them find work, permanent housing or whatever they’re up against.   If a particular organization doesn’t have a physical space that allows it to provide shelter, then it can partner with another that does. St. Juan Diego Parish, for instance, partners with the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, who have rooms on their campus.   Peggy Brice, office manager at St. Juan Diego, said the effort has been a boon for the parish. “Family Promise has revitalized and reenergized all the parish’s ministries,” she said.   Sister Rita Watkins is the Family Promise liaison at the sisters’ campus. “They’re typical little kids,” she said of the guests’ children.   Sister Rita would know. She’s been a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon for 58 years, much of that time ministering as a teacher and principal.  “This has been a dream of mine for years, to help some homeless families,” she said.  She’s pleased with Family Promise, which gives the volunteers clear guidelines. For instance, volunteers working directly with the families must remember that the parents are the ones who correct the children.  “We just enjoy them,” Sister Rita said.   She’s also pleased that the City of Beaverton is a partnering host, a first for Family Promise.   Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle said that working with Family Promise is one of many efforts the city has taken to solve the cruel problem of homelessness. “There’s a crying need,” he said.   He said the city is spending more than a million dollars to alleviate homelessness, including funding a severe weather shelter, an additional police position and a behavioral health liaison at the courthouse and a pilot program that sets up safe parking areas for people who must live in their vehicles.    On the brink   The crisis is statewide.   A March study from ECONorthwest, “Homelessness in Oregon: A Review of Trends, Causes and Policy Options,” found 156,000 households across Oregon on the brink of homelessness, without enough savings for an emergency and living paycheck to paycheck.  For Sharon, a former guest at Family Promise of Beaverton, homelessness came after she’d been scammed.   She seems recovered now, her voice strong as she tells her story in her sunny new Beaverton apartment, her little black cat prancing in and out, her office desk and chair the only furniture in the compact, spotless living room.  Sharon and her son, Dillon (not their real names), had moved to Portland after she left a bad relationship.  Once here, she rented an apartment, piecing together income from a steady job plus freelancing gigs like dog walking. Then the business where she worked closed its doors. She quickly found another job that promised more income — although, as the old saying goes, she’d have to spend some money to make some money. She’d need to drive to various clients, so she spent her savings on a car.  The paychecks never came. She discovered her employer, who had presented herself as heading a small business with several employees, was in fact playing the roles of bookkeeper and scheduler. “I can’t believe I fell for it,” Sharon said.  She and Dillon found themselves with five days to vacate their apartment.  The two worked day and night last autumn to box their few belongings and move them to a storage unit. She had the cash for a couple nights in a cheap hotel. After that they and their little cat were in her car. To move into another place would have been thousands of dollars — first and last month’s rent, a damage deposit, an application and probably a down payment on the utilities.  She didn’t have it. She hadn’t even had the money for their old apartment.  People suggested Dillon might go to a youth shelter, but she wanted them to stick together. Most of the kids in youth shelters were fleeing much rougher situations than her son, an honor student.  She was leery of general shelters for the same reason.  In any case, getting rid of their cat wasn’t an option.  She didn’t know where to turn. Almost accidentally she talked with a counselor at Dillon’s school, who asked her if she’d heard of Family Promise.  She and Dillon went in to interview. “It was such a different experience,” Sharon said. “They treated me like I was a person with a life.”  She’d been concerned that she and Dillon would feel exposed if they accepted help, with people gawking at them. “Being homeless makes you vulnerable in so many ways,” Sharon said.  But instead she felt protected.   Moving from one church to another every week was hard, as was the complicated routine of driving to Sunset Presbyterian Church — from whatever sanctuary they were sleeping at — for a daily shower.  But they were safe, and so was their kitty, who stayed in a kennel that Petco provides, in partnership with Family Promise. They could even visit her.  Mother and son slept at various Beaverton churches for about two months as she worked, saving so she and Dillon could again move into a home of their own.   “I’m so grateful,” she said, admitting that when she and Dillon first got the keys to their new home, she lay down in the middle of the living room, overwhelmed by relief.    Washing machines and shoes   Sunset Presbyterian is the keystone to Family Promise of Beaverton. Its enormous campus not only has rooms where families can spend the night but also showers, washing machines, and an office for the nonprofit and a space for its day center.   The families served come with a variety of problems. Some come from generational homelessness, others lose a job and can no longer make their rent. Some are fleeing abuse. Family Promise volunteers discover the real people within those calamities.  There was the pregnant mom with an infected tooth, and the little boy with swollen, painful feet.   It turned out his shoes were too small.  “Every single family who comes through the door needs shoes,” said O’Halleran.  Families have needed between a few weeks and five and a half months in the program. Six months is the maximum a family can remain. For most shelters, the limit is six weeks, which isn’t usually enough for families to recover.  “What I love about this is that anyone can make a difference,” said Cheryl Hoy, a member of Sunset Presbyterian and Family Promise volunteer.   Nationally, Family Promise has an 88% success rate in finding housing. It has served 950,000 people since its founding in 1986. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush named Family Promise one of the nation’s 21 “Points of Light.” There were 4,500 worthy nominees. Today there are 200 Family Promise affiliates in 43 states. Four are in Oregon.  Sharon, the former guest, thinks Family Promise is successful for at least two reasons: first, the hard work and big hearts of its staff and volunteers. “They’re wonderful people,” she said.   The second reason, she believes, is because the group understands its limitations. They don’t try to help everyone. People with substance abuse and criminal issues aren’t admitted — which made Sharon feel safe and allowed her to focus on getting herself and her son back into a place of their own.   Guests and volunteers alike sign agreements. Homeless parents entering the program must agree to work diligently with the case manager and to respect the hosts’ property, others’ opinions, and the time and energy spent by volunteers.  Volunteers must complete a training, pass a background check, and respect confidentiality and maintain strict boundaries between themselves and guests — something also expected of children who volunteer.   “Child volunteers may see someone they know from school,” said Sister Rita.   Youthful volunteers must be cautioned against blurting out, “What are you doing here?” or anything else that might make a homeless child feel more sad or embarrassed than they already do.  Proselytizing is against the rules, as is babysitting. “Children must remain under the supervision of their parents,” reads one of Family Promise’s guidelines.   Veteran volunteers   Now, a bit more than a year after the Beaverton group’s launch, Barb Upton, another of the local group’s founders and a member of St. Juan Diego, stood at a podium at the back of the church, giving volunteers a refresher course.   Most of her listeners were veterans from last year. They nodded as she reminded everyone to bring “kindness, flexibility, a listening ear and an open mind,” as well as caution against indulging in their natural curiosity and asking personal questions. “We’re aiming to provide judgment-free hospitality,” Upton said.  “Just listen,” she added. “Not, ‘Yes, that happened to me and this is what I did.’”  Guests are in a fragile place and are experiencing the trauma of loss, she said, with a reminder that children may act out under those circumstances.  Wlnsvey Campos, Family Promise’s caseworker, helps the families fix their problems. Campos has a loving heart, and she’s tough, said O’Halleran.   Campos helps guests learn to help themselves, to understand how to work with organizations that can help them. She also performs some infuriating bureaucratic feats, like expunging unfair eviction notices from guests’ rental records. When developers buy apartment buildings to transform them into salable condos, the process begins with evicting all the tenants. Those no-cause evictions go onto a person’s record the same as if they hadn’t been paying rent.  Most problems stem from a lack of affordable housing, said Campos.   In addition to advocating for them, Campos sits with guests as they fill out their paperwork for housing, teaches a class on maintaining a household, and generally helps with life skills: dealing with debt, organizational skills, keeping spaces organized and more.   “It all plays into housing,” Campos said.  After their guests leave, Family Promise’s director and case worker keep in touch for a year. “Our goal is to never have them in the program again until they’re volunteers themselves,” said O’Halleran.

January 2017 provided great memories for Lois O’Halleran’s children, students at St. Mary of the Valley and Jesuit. Snow had closed the schools for nine days, so it was a veritable second Christmas vacation. They sledded, made snowmen and flung snowballs. They’d come inside to warm up with hot chocolate as their snow-encrusted clothes spun in the dryer.

https://catholicsentinel.org/Content/News/Local/Article/Family-Promise-Making-a-difference-for-homeless-kids/2/35/38312

O’Halleran, a parishioner at St. Juan Diego and member of an unofficial coalition seeking solutions to homelessness, delighted in their fun. And yet she was simultaneously haunted by the knowledge that for homeless children the snowstorms were a nightmare. She imagined them, trapped in cold cars, having to brave the cold for bathroom trips — bathroom trips where? — and not daring to play in the snow because their wet clothes would stay wet.

This wasn’t just a handful of children — although that would already be too many. During the 2016–17 school year, 1,720 students in the Beaverton School District experienced homelessness. Of those, 97 were unsheltered — not sleeping on their mother’s friend’s couch, not doubled up with an aunt’s family, not even at a shelter. They had no place to stay.

It’s not just Beaverton. Oregon has a disproportionately high rate of homelessness. The Oregon Department of Education reported almost 22,000 students homeless at some point in the 2017-18 school year.

O’Halleran, a woman always in motion, together with several others decided their coalition needed to act. They had already taken the first steps, voting in June 2016 to open Family Promise of Beaverton — a group of volunteers from various churches working to provide shelter for families.

“We pushed like crazy,” said O’Halleran. “We were opening no matter what.”

Family Promise of Beaverton welcomed its first guests in March 2018.

O’Halleran praises the Family Promise model, a national success story. “They have a template that allows busy people to make a difference.”

Family Promise of Beaverton’s 750 volunteers work through a coalition of 17 church communities and government organizations. Each takes a turn to provide shelter and meals for three or four homeless families, a week at a time. Homeless parents work closely with the Family Promise caseworker, who helps them find work, permanent housing or whatever they’re up against.

If a particular organization doesn’t have a physical space that allows it to provide shelter, then it can partner with another that does. St. Juan Diego Parish, for instance, partners with the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, who have rooms on their campus.

Peggy Brice, office manager at St. Juan Diego, said the effort has been a boon for the parish. “Family Promise has revitalized and reenergized all the parish’s ministries,” she said.

Sister Rita Watkins is the Family Promise liaison at the sisters’ campus. “They’re typical little kids,” she said of the guests’ children.

Sister Rita would know. She’s been a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon for 58 years, much of that time ministering as a teacher and principal.

“This has been a dream of mine for years, to help some homeless families,” she said.

She’s pleased with Family Promise, which gives the volunteers clear guidelines. For instance, volunteers working directly with the families must remember that the parents are the ones who correct the children.

“We just enjoy them,” Sister Rita said.

She’s also pleased that the City of Beaverton is a partnering host, a first for Family Promise.

Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle said that working with Family Promise is one of many efforts the city has taken to solve the cruel problem of homelessness. “There’s a crying need,” he said.

He said the city is spending more than a million dollars to alleviate homelessness, including funding a severe weather shelter, an additional police position and a behavioral health liaison at the courthouse and a pilot program that sets up safe parking areas for people who must live in their vehicles.

On the brink

The crisis is statewide.

A March study from ECONorthwest, “Homelessness in Oregon: A Review of Trends, Causes and Policy Options,” found 156,000 households across Oregon on the brink of homelessness, without enough savings for an emergency and living paycheck to paycheck.

For Sharon, a former guest at Family Promise of Beaverton, homelessness came after she’d been scammed.

She seems recovered now, her voice strong as she tells her story in her sunny new Beaverton apartment, her little black cat prancing in and out, her office desk and chair the only furniture in the compact, spotless living room.

Sharon and her son, Dillon (not their real names), had moved to Portland after she left a bad relationship.

Once here, she rented an apartment, piecing together income from a steady job plus freelancing gigs like dog walking. Then the business where she worked closed its doors. She quickly found another job that promised more income — although, as the old saying goes, she’d have to spend some money to make some money. She’d need to drive to various clients, so she spent her savings on a car.

The paychecks never came. She discovered her employer, who had presented herself as heading a small business with several employees, was in fact playing the roles of bookkeeper and scheduler. “I can’t believe I fell for it,” Sharon said.

She and Dillon found themselves with five days to vacate their apartment.

The two worked day and night last autumn to box their few belongings and move them to a storage unit. She had the cash for a couple nights in a cheap hotel. After that they and their little cat were in her car. To move into another place would have been thousands of dollars — first and last month’s rent, a damage deposit, an application and probably a down payment on the utilities.

She didn’t have it. She hadn’t even had the money for their old apartment.

People suggested Dillon might go to a youth shelter, but she wanted them to stick together. Most of the kids in youth shelters were fleeing much rougher situations than her son, an honor student.

She was leery of general shelters for the same reason.

In any case, getting rid of their cat wasn’t an option.

She didn’t know where to turn. Almost accidentally she talked with a counselor at Dillon’s school, who asked her if she’d heard of Family Promise.

She and Dillon went in to interview. “It was such a different experience,” Sharon said. “They treated me like I was a person with a life.”

She’d been concerned that she and Dillon would feel exposed if they accepted help, with people gawking at them. “Being homeless makes you vulnerable in so many ways,” Sharon said.

But instead she felt protected.

Moving from one church to another every week was hard, as was the complicated routine of driving to Sunset Presbyterian Church — from whatever sanctuary they were sleeping at — for a daily shower.

But they were safe, and so was their kitty, who stayed in a kennel that Petco provides, in partnership with Family Promise. They could even visit her.

Mother and son slept at various Beaverton churches for about two months as she worked, saving so she and Dillon could again move into a home of their own.

“I’m so grateful,” she said, admitting that when she and Dillon first got the keys to their new home, she lay down in the middle of the living room, overwhelmed by relief.

Washing machines and shoes

Sunset Presbyterian is the keystone to Family Promise of Beaverton. Its enormous campus not only has rooms where families can spend the night but also showers, washing machines, and an office for the nonprofit and a space for its day center.

The families served come with a variety of problems. Some come from generational homelessness, others lose a job and can no longer make their rent. Some are fleeing abuse. Family Promise volunteers discover the real people within those calamities.

There was the pregnant mom with an infected tooth, and the little boy with swollen, painful feet.

It turned out his shoes were too small.

“Every single family who comes through the door needs shoes,” said O’Halleran.

Families have needed between a few weeks and five and a half months in the program. Six months is the maximum a family can remain. For most shelters, the limit is six weeks, which isn’t usually enough for families to recover.

“What I love about this is that anyone can make a difference,” said Cheryl Hoy, a member of Sunset Presbyterian and Family Promise volunteer.

Nationally, Family Promise has an 88% success rate in finding housing. It has served 950,000 people since its founding in 1986. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush named Family Promise one of the nation’s 21 “Points of Light.” There were 4,500 worthy nominees. Today there are 200 Family Promise affiliates in 43 states. Four are in Oregon.

Sharon, the former guest, thinks Family Promise is successful for at least two reasons: first, the hard work and big hearts of its staff and volunteers. “They’re wonderful people,” she said.

The second reason, she believes, is because the group understands its limitations. They don’t try to help everyone. People with substance abuse and criminal issues aren’t admitted — which made Sharon feel safe and allowed her to focus on getting herself and her son back into a place of their own.

Guests and volunteers alike sign agreements. Homeless parents entering the program must agree to work diligently with the case manager and to respect the hosts’ property, others’ opinions, and the time and energy spent by volunteers.

Volunteers must complete a training, pass a background check, and respect confidentiality and maintain strict boundaries between themselves and guests — something also expected of children who volunteer.

“Child volunteers may see someone they know from school,” said Sister Rita.

Youthful volunteers must be cautioned against blurting out, “What are you doing here?” or anything else that might make a homeless child feel more sad or embarrassed than they already do.

Proselytizing is against the rules, as is babysitting. “Children must remain under the supervision of their parents,” reads one of Family Promise’s guidelines.

Veteran volunteers

Now, a bit more than a year after the Beaverton group’s launch, Barb Upton, another of the local group’s founders and a member of St. Juan Diego, stood at a podium at the back of the church, giving volunteers a refresher course.

Most of her listeners were veterans from last year. They nodded as she reminded everyone to bring “kindness, flexibility, a listening ear and an open mind,” as well as caution against indulging in their natural curiosity and asking personal questions. “We’re aiming to provide judgment-free hospitality,” Upton said.

“Just listen,” she added. “Not, ‘Yes, that happened to me and this is what I did.’”

Guests are in a fragile place and are experiencing the trauma of loss, she said, with a reminder that children may act out under those circumstances.

Wlnsvey Campos, Family Promise’s caseworker, helps the families fix their problems. Campos has a loving heart, and she’s tough, said O’Halleran.

Campos helps guests learn to help themselves, to understand how to work with organizations that can help them. She also performs some infuriating bureaucratic feats, like expunging unfair eviction notices from guests’ rental records. When developers buy apartment buildings to transform them into salable condos, the process begins with evicting all the tenants. Those no-cause evictions go onto a person’s record the same as if they hadn’t been paying rent.

Most problems stem from a lack of affordable housing, said Campos.

In addition to advocating for them, Campos sits with guests as they fill out their paperwork for housing, teaches a class on maintaining a household, and generally helps with life skills: dealing with debt, organizational skills, keeping spaces organized and more.

“It all plays into housing,” Campos said.

After their guests leave, Family Promise’s director and case worker keep in touch for a year. “Our goal is to never have them in the program again until they’re volunteers themselves,” said O’Halleran.

National Public-Private Homeless Youth & Health Project: 10-Year Federal Initiative Beginning FY 2020 To End New HIV Infections To Less Than 3,000 Per Year By 2030, LGBTQ Youth Leadership Is Key

Youth experiencing homelessness face significant health disparities and higher rates of mental health and substance use conditions, but are also at risk of underutilizing services compared to their housed counterparts. Facing histories of adverse childhood experiences, recent trauma, and stigma, youth experiencing homelessness often have co-occurring conditions. LGBTQ youth are at even higher risk for mental health and substance use conditions and make up a disproportionate amount of the population of youth experiencing homelessness at 40%.   https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1ja-LS3i4XULAe_-mj4BDR_FbxqHPoCSU5MmOSh8-fV0/viewform?edit_requested=true    https://files.hiv.gov/s3fs-public/Ending-the-HIV-Epidemic-Counties-and-Territories.pdf    https://www.hiv.gov/federal-response/ending-the-hiv-epidemic/overview   Over the past year, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, the National LGBT Health Education Center with Fenway Health, and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council partnered together in a Learning Collaborative series that addressed the unique needs of youth experiencing homelessness, with a focus on LGBT youth. Best practices and interest from that series have informed the mission of this Learning Collaborative to work with participating service providers in the integration of youth leadership teams.  This year, HRSA announced a new “.” This will be a ten-year initiative beginning in FY 2020 to achieve the important goal of reducing new HIV infections to less than 3,000 per year by 2030. Reducing new infections to this level would essentially mean that HIV transmissions would be rare and meet the definition of ending the epidemic. The initiative will focus efforts in 48 counties, Washington, DC, San Juan (PR), and seven states with substantial rural HIV burden. This Learning Collaborative will also incorporate this goal by highlighting best practices for youth-led peer education and outreach on HIV.  LEARNING COLLABORATIVE DESCRIPTION:  Beginning in September 2019, this Learning Collaborative will take place over the course of four 90-minute sessions that will encourage participants to establish or grow youth leadership or advisory teams using the framework of a Change Map to guide their work. Sessions will highlight exemplary programs with components of youth leadership and integration, and will facilitate interactions among participants to share local and organizational strategies, challenges, and successes. By the end of the four-month learning collaborative, all participants will develop a draft Change Map to guide efforts in establishing or advancing youth leadership in their own programs. Participants who attend all four sessions and complete a Change Map will receive a certificate of completion. Sites are encouraged, but not required, to include any participating youth in these calls to engage in these sessions.  ELIGIBILITY: Applicants must be existing or potential Health Center Program grantees with existing youth-centered programs (13-24) or that are looking to establish youth-centered services.  FEE: NO COST/ FREE  COMMITMENT: Attendance of all 4 sessions, or access to recorded session links if unavailable, and completion of a Change Map to establish or advance an existing youth leadership or advisory team.  SESSION DETAILS  SESSION 1 (Tuesday, September 17, 11 am – 12:30 pm Pacific Daylight Time)  By the end of session 1, participants will be able to:  1. Describe at least 3 different approaches for integrating youth in a leadership or advisory capacity in their programs  3. Craft a problem and goal statement related to engagement of youth in leadership roles  • Homework: Complete the following portions of the Change Map: Problem Statement, Target Population, Contributing Factors  SESSION 2 (Tuesday, October 15, 11 am – 12:30 pm Pacific Daylight Time)  By the end of session 2, participants will be able to:  1. Identify at least 2 strategies to ensure outreach and engagement of youth is culturally appropriate and define necessary resources  2. Propose a youth leadership program and work through key considerations required for success  • Homework: Complete the following portions of the Change Map: Culturally Appropriate, Resources, Partnerships, Staff Buy-in.  SESSION 3 (Tuesday, November 12, 11 am – 12:30 pm Pacific Daylight Time)  By the end of session 3, participants will be able to:  1. Identify tools to help measure the success of program initiatives  2. Outline activities/phases, propose a timeline, and describe a plan to track progress and collect data to track success of engagement programs  • Homework: Complete the following portions of the Change Map: Activities and Phases, Timeline, Tracking Progress, Data.  SESSION 4 (Tuesday, December 17, 11 am – 12:30 pm Pacific Daylight Time)  By the end of session 4, participants will be able to:  1. Define what success looks like and articulate long-term goals for their programs  2. Share a complete a change map with steps to meet identified goals  • Homework: Complete the following portions of the Change Map: Define Success. Sustain and Scale.  APPLICATIONS ARE DUE BY FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 6th, AT MIDNIGHT LOCAL TIME.  Please complete the following  application  to participate in this Learning Collaborative.

Youth experiencing homelessness face significant health disparities and higher rates of mental health and substance use conditions, but are also at risk of underutilizing services compared to their housed counterparts. Facing histories of adverse childhood experiences, recent trauma, and stigma, youth experiencing homelessness often have co-occurring conditions. LGBTQ youth are at even higher risk for mental health and substance use conditions and make up a disproportionate amount of the population of youth experiencing homelessness at 40%.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1ja-LS3i4XULAe_-mj4BDR_FbxqHPoCSU5MmOSh8-fV0/viewform?edit_requested=true

https://files.hiv.gov/s3fs-public/Ending-the-HIV-Epidemic-Counties-and-Territories.pdf

https://www.hiv.gov/federal-response/ending-the-hiv-epidemic/overview

Over the past year, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, the National LGBT Health Education Center with Fenway Health, and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council partnered together in a Learning Collaborative series that addressed the unique needs of youth experiencing homelessness, with a focus on LGBT youth. Best practices and interest from that series have informed the mission of this Learning Collaborative to work with participating service providers in the integration of youth leadership teams.

This year, HRSA announced a new “.” This will be a ten-year initiative beginning in FY 2020 to achieve the important goal of reducing new HIV infections to less than 3,000 per year by 2030. Reducing new infections to this level would essentially mean that HIV transmissions would be rare and meet the definition of ending the epidemic. The initiative will focus efforts in 48 counties, Washington, DC, San Juan (PR), and seven states with substantial rural HIV burden. This Learning Collaborative will also incorporate this goal by highlighting best practices for youth-led peer education and outreach on HIV.

LEARNING COLLABORATIVE DESCRIPTION:

Beginning in September 2019, this Learning Collaborative will take place over the course of four 90-minute sessions that will encourage participants to establish or grow youth leadership or advisory teams using the framework of a Change Map to guide their work. Sessions will highlight exemplary programs with components of youth leadership and integration, and will facilitate interactions among participants to share local and organizational strategies, challenges, and successes. By the end of the four-month learning collaborative, all participants will develop a draft Change Map to guide efforts in establishing or advancing youth leadership in their own programs. Participants who attend all four sessions and complete a Change Map will receive a certificate of completion. Sites are encouraged, but not required, to include any participating youth in these calls to engage in these sessions.

ELIGIBILITY: Applicants must be existing or potential Health Center Program grantees with existing youth-centered programs (13-24) or that are looking to establish youth-centered services.

FEE: NO COST/ FREE

COMMITMENT: Attendance of all 4 sessions, or access to recorded session links if unavailable, and completion of a Change Map to establish or advance an existing youth leadership or advisory team.

SESSION DETAILS

SESSION 1 (Tuesday, September 17, 11 am – 12:30 pm Pacific Daylight Time)

By the end of session 1, participants will be able to:

1. Describe at least 3 different approaches for integrating youth in a leadership or advisory capacity in their programs

3. Craft a problem and goal statement related to engagement of youth in leadership roles

• Homework: Complete the following portions of the Change Map: Problem Statement, Target Population, Contributing Factors

SESSION 2 (Tuesday, October 15, 11 am – 12:30 pm Pacific Daylight Time)

By the end of session 2, participants will be able to:

1. Identify at least 2 strategies to ensure outreach and engagement of youth is culturally appropriate and define necessary resources

2. Propose a youth leadership program and work through key considerations required for success

• Homework: Complete the following portions of the Change Map: Culturally Appropriate, Resources, Partnerships, Staff Buy-in.

SESSION 3 (Tuesday, November 12, 11 am – 12:30 pm Pacific Daylight Time)

By the end of session 3, participants will be able to:

1. Identify tools to help measure the success of program initiatives

2. Outline activities/phases, propose a timeline, and describe a plan to track progress and collect data to track success of engagement programs

• Homework: Complete the following portions of the Change Map: Activities and Phases, Timeline, Tracking Progress, Data.

SESSION 4 (Tuesday, December 17, 11 am – 12:30 pm Pacific Daylight Time)

By the end of session 4, participants will be able to:

1. Define what success looks like and articulate long-term goals for their programs

2. Share a complete a change map with steps to meet identified goals

• Homework: Complete the following portions of the Change Map: Define Success. Sustain and Scale.

APPLICATIONS ARE DUE BY FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 6th, AT MIDNIGHT LOCAL TIME.

Please complete the following application to participate in this Learning Collaborative.

San Antonio (TX) Public-Private Homeless & Opportunity Youth Project: $760,000 Investment For State's 1st Re-Engagement Center, With 35,000 Disconnected Youth Not Working Or In School

For Dionna Camino, it was caring for her terminally ill father. For Shelby Morales, it was an unexpected pregnancy at age 14. For both, it was too much responsibility too soon that knocked them off the tightrope of getting through high school and college to land a good-paying job. Now, they are among the estimated 4.5 million so-called opportunity youth nationwide — 16- to 24-year-olds who are neither in school nor working — struggling to put their lives back together.   https://www.the74million.org/article/4-5-million-young-people-nationwide-are-not-working-or-in-school-how-cities-are-working-to-get-them-back-on-track-avoid-the-school-to-prison-pipeline/   Researchers say there are around 75,000 disconnected youth in Los Angeles; 43,000 in Philadelphia; 36,500 in Baltimore; and 35,000 in San Antonio’s Bexar County, where Camino and Morales live. Disengaged from both education and the labor force, these young people are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, too often finding themselves in the school-to-prison pipeline.  How they got there is a question that has no easy answer, said Steven Hussain, former chief mission services officer of Goodwill San Antonio. Some are homeless or have young children. Maybe they dropped out of high school, have criminal records or are on probation. But some have high school diplomas and even some college coursework. Opportunity youth don’t fit a profile, he said: “It’s usually a mix of things.”  For most opportunity youth, it isn’t a defined set of missteps that apply to certain, exceptionally troubled, kids. It’s really more the opposite: a churning sea of relentless waves and undertows pushing them under and dragging them in all directions.  From their precarious position treading water, they can look up and see the school-to-success high wire — options and resources available to teens that will guide them toward becoming financially, emotionally, socially secure adults. They just don’t know how to climb back on.  In San Antonio, which makes up the vast majority of Bexar County, the Department of Human Services, Goodwill and Communities in Schools opened Nxt Level, the state’s first comprehensive youth re-engagement center, in February. It is specifically designed to help undereducated young people who are disengaged from societal support systems regain their footing. Camino and Morales are just two of the opportunity youth hoping Nxt Level can help them find their way back.  Least likely to end up here  Growing up, Camino, a 24-year-old with a wide grin and expressive eyes, never thought she would need a place like Nxt Level.  “I was that student that they were like, ‘We don’t have to worry about her,’” Camino said, remembering how her teachers and parents talked about her.  She’s smart. She played basketball and wanted to play in college. But during her junior year, her dad was diagnosed with cancer. She was his only child, and her parents were divorced. In her senior year, his condition deteriorated, and she had to start making decisions. Before, she’d just been doing the next thing: taking the next class, winning the next game. Suddenly, there were diverging options.  Camino was given power of attorney for her father. She decided to wait on college, knowing she would have a lot of responsibility at home. She could always go back to school, she figured, “But a father I can’t replace.”  Camino cared for him until he died. She was 21, working at a fast-food restaurant to pay the bills, in a stable relationship. However, she didn’t have health insurance, and without it, she couldn’t afford birth control. By the time college application time rolled around, she and her longtime boyfriend were about to become parents.  “I have a home. I have a car. I have a decent job,” she remembered thinking. “I really want to get into school, but giving this child a chance is maybe what I need to do.”  Still, Camino wanted to do more than just flip burgers, and she decided to become a registered nurse. After her daughter’s first birthday, she was preparing to enroll in a program when she and her boyfriend got into an argument. As they quarreled over the pressures of paying bills and raising a child, she shoved him out of the way as she stormed out of the house, and he, in a moment of spite, pressed charges. She went to court and pleaded no contest.  Because it was her first offense, the judge sentenced Camino to anger management and required her to report in at Nxt Level.  Nxt Level, she said, has been a “second chance” — but with her competitive mentality, Camino struggles with her circuitous path and the fact that she’s now years behind her classmates. “You feel,” she said, “like, ‘Am I doing this right?’”  The kids are disengaged  Nxt Level site manager Timothy Pazderka said it’s ironic that people think of opportunity youth as irresponsible or lazy, when it’s actually the magnitude of their responsibilities that blows them off course.  Once they do become disengaged or disconnected, their problems tend to compound. Which is how it came to be that 11.5 percent of the U.S. population ages 16 to 24 became opportunity youth, according to an April 2019 report from Measure of America. This represents a decline of 1.3 million from the height of 14.7 percent disengaged youth in 2010, during the Great Recession. The report credits a growing economy and focus on high school graduation, but it acknowledges that for black teens, the disconnection rate has actually increased. The report calls for “collective efforts tailored especially for those most at risk.”  Gathering data on opportunity youth is both essential and difficult, said Tamar Mendelson, director of the Center for Adolescent Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She has studied opportunity youth for various initiatives, including the National League of Cities re-engagement program, where Nxt Level directors have received training.  “A lot of times, cities don’t even know, ‘Who are these youth?’ ‘Where are they?’” Mendelson said. This is in part due to the many ways students become disengaged. She has seen kids cut off from school and work because of homelessness, LGBTQ ostracism, the pressures of single parenting. Some drop out of high school, while others simply drift away after graduation.  San Antonio underwent a harsh awakening when Municipal Court Judge John Bull’s office reported that 30,000 to 35,000 students in Bexar County were disengaged from school and work, around 15 percent of the total age group. That’s on the high end of percentages in other major cities, such as Los Angeles, where the number is around 14 percent. In Philadelphia, Drexel University researchers estimated as many as 1 in 4 students to be disengaged.  Counting opportunity youth is difficult by nature, because they aren’t in the places where they might easily be found. Bull’s office used school district dropout reports, census data and employment statistics to arrive at his estimates. He was motivated, he said, to better understand his own courtroom, because many disengaged young people end up in municipal court for minor offenses. The county caseworkers in Bull’s office are often the first mental health checkpoint the teen defendants have ever encountered.  “They’re just not used to somebody giving them that attention,” he said. A lot of kids just needed someone to talk to, someone who would listen.  Once Bull had his numbers, it was time to figure out how to change them.  Opportunity youth services require quite a bit of tailoring, said Mendelson. Because these kids don’t travel along a standard pathway, each city needs to take a unique approach based on the expressed needs of the people it wants to serve and the assets available in the community.  This usually means more data collection. To learn more about opportunity youth in Baltimore, for example, members of the center, including young people trained as researchers, asked open-ended questions of the kids and their neighbors. Mendelson was stunned by how much hunger played a role. “There’s a lot of food insecurity,” she said. “We really heard some pretty devastating things about the needs.”  She kept this in mind as the Center for Adolescent Health worked with with Baltimore’s Promise, a citywide collaborative; the mayor’s Office of Employment Development; and Baltimore City Public Schools to evaluate their Grads-to-Careers initiative, a job training and support program for high school graduates who disappeared from education and workforce statistics. Food programs would be needed alongside mental health and legal resources. The program would also provide targeted academic remediation, because graduates from local high schools were often several years behind grade level in reading and math.  The Baltimore post-high school re-engagement program is administered through eight sites around the city, each with job training in a different career field.  In San Francisco, Measure of America calculates 42,000 opportunity youth in the metro area, with another local nonprofit putting the number at almost double that. Through a Jobs for the Future grant, in partnership with the Aspen Institute, Bay Area Community Resources launched an Opportunity Works initiative specifically targeting the 16-to-24 population. One of the programs, ReSET, helps students gain up to 80 hours of job and life skills training, along with SAT prep, résumé workshops and other services specific to their goals.  Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Los Angeles have all opened re-engagement centers that are one-stop shops — what social workers refer to as “single doors” — for mental health resources, help with navigating public services and career counseling. The specifics of each program have evolved as the operators learned about the needs of their city’s particular opportunity youth and identified partners to meet them.  For homeless youth, basic health and sanitation are where it all begins. At DC ReEngagement, a collaboration between the Office of the State Superintendent of Education and the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement that opened in 2014, youth have access to showers, washers and dryers along with clothing and food pantries.  Philadelphia’s re-engagement program, founded in 2008, is operated by the city school district as an alternative school. It offers a Multiple Pathways program for students who need modified schedules and school services. Among those are child care, GED preparation and job training.  The Los Angeles program began in 2012 and has 14 Youth Source centers around the city. In addition to the standard re-engagement services, a partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District and the City of Los Angeles Economic and Workforce Development Department emphasizes re-enrollment in high school, with LAUSD staff on site to facilitate.  Last year, Bull decided San Antonio needed a re-engagement program of its own.  The city tapped Goodwill San Antonio and Communities in Schools of San Antonio, a dropout-prevention nonprofit, to create a re-engagement program in the Frank Garrett Center, an underutilized city property in the heart of zip code 78207 — one of the poorest in the country.  The city allocated $760,000 to establish and staff the center, and so far, said Rebecca Flores, the City of San Antonio’s education program director, “We are seeing the kids we thought we’d be seeing.” Operations will run about $660,000 in the center’s second year.  Facing a need in the tens of thousands, Hussain said, the temptation is to create a scalable, one-size-fits-all approach. But that’s unlikely to work for young people who have already been thrown off by the factory model of schooling, inflexible work schedules and inadequate wages.  Because of their other programs in the city, Communities in Schools and Goodwill know that Nxt Level is part, but not all, of the solution. Its strength is its ability to tailor services to the needs of each client.  If the pace keeps up, Nxt Level will serve 600 youth by the end of its first year in February 2020, some needing one service, others returning for more. The performance metrics set a goal of 42 percent of clients going on to complete a diploma or GED, with 80 percent still engaged after one year, and Flores predicted Nxt Level will meet or exceed its goals.  So far, court referrals have been the only outreach the center has used. Other clients have come from word of mouth.  “It’s working overnight,” Bull said.  That could change once Bexar County’s 17 school districts hand over their “leaver lists” — rosters of students who left school without explanation during the 2018-19 school year. Districts spend the summer going to door to door figuring out where the students went. Some have transferred or moved, but for those who are not enrolled in school at all, districts have until October to re-enroll the students before they are considered having dropped out. Bexar County districts have agreed to share their final leaver lists with Bull’s court. Nxt Level staff will then begin tracking down those who have fully dropped out of school. With so many school districts, there are lots of cracks to fall through, though, and until now, no single agency could reach across district boundaries to seek the leavers out.  ‘Invasive’ care  When new clients come through the door of Nxt Level, they are met with perhaps the most detailed triage they’ve ever encountered, thanks to one of three Communities in Schools coaches on staff. These licensed counselors and social workers take them through an intake process that touches on adverse childhood experiences, mental health, daily routine and whatever else they need to get a full picture of the person’s life.  “It’s pretty invasive,” said Jessica Weaver, executive director of Communities in Schools–San Antonio. “If we don’t understand the whole story, we’re not going to understand where the bumps are going to come from.”  For Morales, the interest the Nxt Level coaches showed in her was a surprise. She was even more surprised by how much she liked it. “Talking to them makes me happy,” she said, smiling.  Like Camino, Morales came to Nxt Level under a court order after she was charged with assaulting an ex-boyfriend, who was also her manager at a fast-food restaurant. She admits she lost her temper when he humiliated her in front of customers.  Also like Camino, Morales is a parent. She has her high school diploma, which she achieved with her daughter in tow the entire time; she got pregnant in eighth grade.  She didn’t think she could ever earn a bachelor’s degree, but then her brother graduated from a four-year college, and that got her thinking. She had worked a brief stint in an entry-level job at the San Antonio Zoo with lots of room to grow … for people with college degrees and relevant work experience. She loved the environment, the passion the people had for their jobs, the stable atmosphere. It was different from what she had experienced in most of the jobs available to her — fast food, primarily. She wants more options like the zoo, or maybe the music industry.  So Morales decided to make the most of her time at Nxt Level to explore those interests and prepare for her next steps.  After meeting with their Communities in Schools coach, the Nxt Level clients work with Goodwill staff to figure out a plan of action. Are there certificate programs, degree pathways or job training to pursue? Do they just need someone to let them in the door for an interview?  In addition to the formal Nxt Level partners, Bull has called on the business community to consider hiring opportunity youth.  “They’ll do their part to get them ready,” Bull said at an event announcing the center to local financial and business leaders, held at the San Antonio Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank. “We need the business community to meet us halfway and give these kids a chance because, I will tell you in my experience as an employer, those have always been the best employees. They’ll work harder and do more for you … They are so smart and so resilient.”  Goodwill staff are always on the lookout for more area employers willing to offer that chance and help the youth plug in. They want business partners to help clients aim higher. Most opportunity youth have already done the fast-food thing, the call center, the car wash. One of the biggest misconceptions about them, Flores said, is that they are cynical and apathetic. On the contrary, she said, most of the clients at Nxt Level have big dreams. They’re relieved to find a path forward, an alternative to the tightrope they fell off.  Despite having gone through rough years in school, abusive relationships, economic hardship and the criminal justice system, Flores said, “they’re not jaded yet.”  That’s why they call them opportunity youth.

For Dionna Camino, it was caring for her terminally ill father. For Shelby Morales, it was an unexpected pregnancy at age 14. For both, it was too much responsibility too soon that knocked them off the tightrope of getting through high school and college to land a good-paying job. Now, they are among the estimated 4.5 million so-called opportunity youth nationwide — 16- to 24-year-olds who are neither in school nor working — struggling to put their lives back together.

https://www.the74million.org/article/4-5-million-young-people-nationwide-are-not-working-or-in-school-how-cities-are-working-to-get-them-back-on-track-avoid-the-school-to-prison-pipeline/

Researchers say there are around 75,000 disconnected youth in Los Angeles; 43,000 in Philadelphia; 36,500 in Baltimore; and 35,000 in San Antonio’s Bexar County, where Camino and Morales live. Disengaged from both education and the labor force, these young people are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, too often finding themselves in the school-to-prison pipeline.

How they got there is a question that has no easy answer, said Steven Hussain, former chief mission services officer of Goodwill San Antonio. Some are homeless or have young children. Maybe they dropped out of high school, have criminal records or are on probation. But some have high school diplomas and even some college coursework. Opportunity youth don’t fit a profile, he said: “It’s usually a mix of things.”

For most opportunity youth, it isn’t a defined set of missteps that apply to certain, exceptionally troubled, kids. It’s really more the opposite: a churning sea of relentless waves and undertows pushing them under and dragging them in all directions.

From their precarious position treading water, they can look up and see the school-to-success high wire — options and resources available to teens that will guide them toward becoming financially, emotionally, socially secure adults. They just don’t know how to climb back on.

In San Antonio, which makes up the vast majority of Bexar County, the Department of Human Services, Goodwill and Communities in Schools opened Nxt Level, the state’s first comprehensive youth re-engagement center, in February. It is specifically designed to help undereducated young people who are disengaged from societal support systems regain their footing. Camino and Morales are just two of the opportunity youth hoping Nxt Level can help them find their way back.

Least likely to end up here

Growing up, Camino, a 24-year-old with a wide grin and expressive eyes, never thought she would need a place like Nxt Level.

“I was that student that they were like, ‘We don’t have to worry about her,’” Camino said, remembering how her teachers and parents talked about her.

She’s smart. She played basketball and wanted to play in college. But during her junior year, her dad was diagnosed with cancer. She was his only child, and her parents were divorced. In her senior year, his condition deteriorated, and she had to start making decisions. Before, she’d just been doing the next thing: taking the next class, winning the next game. Suddenly, there were diverging options.

Camino was given power of attorney for her father. She decided to wait on college, knowing she would have a lot of responsibility at home. She could always go back to school, she figured, “But a father I can’t replace.”

Camino cared for him until he died. She was 21, working at a fast-food restaurant to pay the bills, in a stable relationship. However, she didn’t have health insurance, and without it, she couldn’t afford birth control. By the time college application time rolled around, she and her longtime boyfriend were about to become parents.

“I have a home. I have a car. I have a decent job,” she remembered thinking. “I really want to get into school, but giving this child a chance is maybe what I need to do.”

Still, Camino wanted to do more than just flip burgers, and she decided to become a registered nurse. After her daughter’s first birthday, she was preparing to enroll in a program when she and her boyfriend got into an argument. As they quarreled over the pressures of paying bills and raising a child, she shoved him out of the way as she stormed out of the house, and he, in a moment of spite, pressed charges. She went to court and pleaded no contest.

Because it was her first offense, the judge sentenced Camino to anger management and required her to report in at Nxt Level.

Nxt Level, she said, has been a “second chance” — but with her competitive mentality, Camino struggles with her circuitous path and the fact that she’s now years behind her classmates. “You feel,” she said, “like, ‘Am I doing this right?’”

The kids are disengaged

Nxt Level site manager Timothy Pazderka said it’s ironic that people think of opportunity youth as irresponsible or lazy, when it’s actually the magnitude of their responsibilities that blows them off course.

Once they do become disengaged or disconnected, their problems tend to compound. Which is how it came to be that 11.5 percent of the U.S. population ages 16 to 24 became opportunity youth, according to an April 2019 report from Measure of America. This represents a decline of 1.3 million from the height of 14.7 percent disengaged youth in 2010, during the Great Recession. The report credits a growing economy and focus on high school graduation, but it acknowledges that for black teens, the disconnection rate has actually increased. The report calls for “collective efforts tailored especially for those most at risk.”

Gathering data on opportunity youth is both essential and difficult, said Tamar Mendelson, director of the Center for Adolescent Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She has studied opportunity youth for various initiatives, including the National League of Cities re-engagement program, where Nxt Level directors have received training.

“A lot of times, cities don’t even know, ‘Who are these youth?’ ‘Where are they?’” Mendelson said. This is in part due to the many ways students become disengaged. She has seen kids cut off from school and work because of homelessness, LGBTQ ostracism, the pressures of single parenting. Some drop out of high school, while others simply drift away after graduation.

San Antonio underwent a harsh awakening when Municipal Court Judge John Bull’s office reported that 30,000 to 35,000 students in Bexar County were disengaged from school and work, around 15 percent of the total age group. That’s on the high end of percentages in other major cities, such as Los Angeles, where the number is around 14 percent. In Philadelphia, Drexel University researchers estimated as many as 1 in 4 students to be disengaged.

Counting opportunity youth is difficult by nature, because they aren’t in the places where they might easily be found. Bull’s office used school district dropout reports, census data and employment statistics to arrive at his estimates. He was motivated, he said, to better understand his own courtroom, because many disengaged young people end up in municipal court for minor offenses. The county caseworkers in Bull’s office are often the first mental health checkpoint the teen defendants have ever encountered.

“They’re just not used to somebody giving them that attention,” he said. A lot of kids just needed someone to talk to, someone who would listen.

Once Bull had his numbers, it was time to figure out how to change them.

Opportunity youth services require quite a bit of tailoring, said Mendelson. Because these kids don’t travel along a standard pathway, each city needs to take a unique approach based on the expressed needs of the people it wants to serve and the assets available in the community.

This usually means more data collection. To learn more about opportunity youth in Baltimore, for example, members of the center, including young people trained as researchers, asked open-ended questions of the kids and their neighbors. Mendelson was stunned by how much hunger played a role. “There’s a lot of food insecurity,” she said. “We really heard some pretty devastating things about the needs.”

She kept this in mind as the Center for Adolescent Health worked with with Baltimore’s Promise, a citywide collaborative; the mayor’s Office of Employment Development; and Baltimore City Public Schools to evaluate their Grads-to-Careers initiative, a job training and support program for high school graduates who disappeared from education and workforce statistics. Food programs would be needed alongside mental health and legal resources. The program would also provide targeted academic remediation, because graduates from local high schools were often several years behind grade level in reading and math.

The Baltimore post-high school re-engagement program is administered through eight sites around the city, each with job training in a different career field.

In San Francisco, Measure of America calculates 42,000 opportunity youth in the metro area, with another local nonprofit putting the number at almost double that. Through a Jobs for the Future grant, in partnership with the Aspen Institute, Bay Area Community Resources launched an Opportunity Works initiative specifically targeting the 16-to-24 population. One of the programs, ReSET, helps students gain up to 80 hours of job and life skills training, along with SAT prep, résumé workshops and other services specific to their goals.

Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Los Angeles have all opened re-engagement centers that are one-stop shops — what social workers refer to as “single doors” — for mental health resources, help with navigating public services and career counseling. The specifics of each program have evolved as the operators learned about the needs of their city’s particular opportunity youth and identified partners to meet them.

For homeless youth, basic health and sanitation are where it all begins. At DC ReEngagement, a collaboration between the Office of the State Superintendent of Education and the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement that opened in 2014, youth have access to showers, washers and dryers along with clothing and food pantries.

Philadelphia’s re-engagement program, founded in 2008, is operated by the city school district as an alternative school. It offers a Multiple Pathways program for students who need modified schedules and school services. Among those are child care, GED preparation and job training.

The Los Angeles program began in 2012 and has 14 Youth Source centers around the city. In addition to the standard re-engagement services, a partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District and the City of Los Angeles Economic and Workforce Development Department emphasizes re-enrollment in high school, with LAUSD staff on site to facilitate.

Last year, Bull decided San Antonio needed a re-engagement program of its own.

The city tapped Goodwill San Antonio and Communities in Schools of San Antonio, a dropout-prevention nonprofit, to create a re-engagement program in the Frank Garrett Center, an underutilized city property in the heart of zip code 78207 — one of the poorest in the country.

The city allocated $760,000 to establish and staff the center, and so far, said Rebecca Flores, the City of San Antonio’s education program director, “We are seeing the kids we thought we’d be seeing.” Operations will run about $660,000 in the center’s second year.

Facing a need in the tens of thousands, Hussain said, the temptation is to create a scalable, one-size-fits-all approach. But that’s unlikely to work for young people who have already been thrown off by the factory model of schooling, inflexible work schedules and inadequate wages.

Because of their other programs in the city, Communities in Schools and Goodwill know that Nxt Level is part, but not all, of the solution. Its strength is its ability to tailor services to the needs of each client.

If the pace keeps up, Nxt Level will serve 600 youth by the end of its first year in February 2020, some needing one service, others returning for more. The performance metrics set a goal of 42 percent of clients going on to complete a diploma or GED, with 80 percent still engaged after one year, and Flores predicted Nxt Level will meet or exceed its goals.

So far, court referrals have been the only outreach the center has used. Other clients have come from word of mouth.

“It’s working overnight,” Bull said.

That could change once Bexar County’s 17 school districts hand over their “leaver lists” — rosters of students who left school without explanation during the 2018-19 school year. Districts spend the summer going to door to door figuring out where the students went. Some have transferred or moved, but for those who are not enrolled in school at all, districts have until October to re-enroll the students before they are considered having dropped out. Bexar County districts have agreed to share their final leaver lists with Bull’s court. Nxt Level staff will then begin tracking down those who have fully dropped out of school. With so many school districts, there are lots of cracks to fall through, though, and until now, no single agency could reach across district boundaries to seek the leavers out.

‘Invasive’ care

When new clients come through the door of Nxt Level, they are met with perhaps the most detailed triage they’ve ever encountered, thanks to one of three Communities in Schools coaches on staff. These licensed counselors and social workers take them through an intake process that touches on adverse childhood experiences, mental health, daily routine and whatever else they need to get a full picture of the person’s life.

“It’s pretty invasive,” said Jessica Weaver, executive director of Communities in Schools–San Antonio. “If we don’t understand the whole story, we’re not going to understand where the bumps are going to come from.”

For Morales, the interest the Nxt Level coaches showed in her was a surprise. She was even more surprised by how much she liked it. “Talking to them makes me happy,” she said, smiling.

Like Camino, Morales came to Nxt Level under a court order after she was charged with assaulting an ex-boyfriend, who was also her manager at a fast-food restaurant. She admits she lost her temper when he humiliated her in front of customers.

Also like Camino, Morales is a parent. She has her high school diploma, which she achieved with her daughter in tow the entire time; she got pregnant in eighth grade.

She didn’t think she could ever earn a bachelor’s degree, but then her brother graduated from a four-year college, and that got her thinking. She had worked a brief stint in an entry-level job at the San Antonio Zoo with lots of room to grow … for people with college degrees and relevant work experience. She loved the environment, the passion the people had for their jobs, the stable atmosphere. It was different from what she had experienced in most of the jobs available to her — fast food, primarily. She wants more options like the zoo, or maybe the music industry.

So Morales decided to make the most of her time at Nxt Level to explore those interests and prepare for her next steps.

After meeting with their Communities in Schools coach, the Nxt Level clients work with Goodwill staff to figure out a plan of action. Are there certificate programs, degree pathways or job training to pursue? Do they just need someone to let them in the door for an interview?

In addition to the formal Nxt Level partners, Bull has called on the business community to consider hiring opportunity youth.

“They’ll do their part to get them ready,” Bull said at an event announcing the center to local financial and business leaders, held at the San Antonio Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank. “We need the business community to meet us halfway and give these kids a chance because, I will tell you in my experience as an employer, those have always been the best employees. They’ll work harder and do more for you … They are so smart and so resilient.”

Goodwill staff are always on the lookout for more area employers willing to offer that chance and help the youth plug in. They want business partners to help clients aim higher. Most opportunity youth have already done the fast-food thing, the call center, the car wash. One of the biggest misconceptions about them, Flores said, is that they are cynical and apathetic. On the contrary, she said, most of the clients at Nxt Level have big dreams. They’re relieved to find a path forward, an alternative to the tightrope they fell off.

Despite having gone through rough years in school, abusive relationships, economic hardship and the criminal justice system, Flores said, “they’re not jaded yet.”

That’s why they call them opportunity youth.

Nashville (TN) Nonprofit's Homeless Youth Project: $3.5 Million Federal Award, Rental Assistance For 2 Years, Youth Prefer Rent Help Rather Than Construction Which Takes Longer & Helps Fewer Youth

Young people in Nashville who are considered homeless can now get help paying rent for a couple of years. The city has decided to use a federal grant for rental assistance, rather than building new affordable housing.   https://www.nashvillepublicradio.org/post/nashville-will-use-federal-grant-help-homeless-youth-pay-rent#stream/0   A  Coordinated Community Plan  found that Nashville has roughly a thousand college-age kids each year in Alesha Alexcee’s former position. She bounced between a women’s shelter and sleeping in a hallway at Nashville State Community College. Rents have gotten so high, even working a couple of jobs might not be enough to land a stable place to live.  "Especially if you’re dealing with a lot of trauma for the first part of your life," she says. "It's a whole smorgasbord of things that conflate to contribute to a lot of youth and young-adult homelessness."  Alexcee told her story Tuesday at the Oasis Center as city officials detailed their plans for a $3.5 million grant  first announced last summer  by a top official from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Some money will hire caseworkers. But most will be put into rental assistance. Recipients, who have to be homeless or in immediate danger of becoming homeless, will be eligible for two years of help, or possibly three.  Now, Mark Dunkerly of the Oasis Center is putting the call out to apartment owners.  "We just need landlords who are willing to say, 'OK, I’m willing to lease to an 18- to 24 year-old that doesn’t have a parent to co-sign.' We’re basically being the parent co-signing in this situation," he says.  Dunkerly says a working group of two dozen homeless service agencies initially considered building their own affordable housing. But young people involved in the process and who had experienced homelessness argued construction would take too long and possibly help fewer people.  The hot rental market may be working against them, but other cities have had some success with this "rapid re-housing" concept are pricey too. They include Austin, San Francisco and New York.  "That gave us hope that we can do it here in Nashville," Dunkerly says. "It’s not going to be easy, but we are going to be hiring someone that’s just dedicated to work with landlords, all day every day."

Young people in Nashville who are considered homeless can now get help paying rent for a couple of years. The city has decided to use a federal grant for rental assistance, rather than building new affordable housing.

https://www.nashvillepublicradio.org/post/nashville-will-use-federal-grant-help-homeless-youth-pay-rent#stream/0

A Coordinated Community Plan found that Nashville has roughly a thousand college-age kids each year in Alesha Alexcee’s former position. She bounced between a women’s shelter and sleeping in a hallway at Nashville State Community College. Rents have gotten so high, even working a couple of jobs might not be enough to land a stable place to live.

"Especially if you’re dealing with a lot of trauma for the first part of your life," she says. "It's a whole smorgasbord of things that conflate to contribute to a lot of youth and young-adult homelessness."

Alexcee told her story Tuesday at the Oasis Center as city officials detailed their plans for a $3.5 million grant first announced last summer by a top official from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Some money will hire caseworkers. But most will be put into rental assistance. Recipients, who have to be homeless or in immediate danger of becoming homeless, will be eligible for two years of help, or possibly three.

Now, Mark Dunkerly of the Oasis Center is putting the call out to apartment owners.

"We just need landlords who are willing to say, 'OK, I’m willing to lease to an 18- to 24 year-old that doesn’t have a parent to co-sign.' We’re basically being the parent co-signing in this situation," he says.

Dunkerly says a working group of two dozen homeless service agencies initially considered building their own affordable housing. But young people involved in the process and who had experienced homelessness argued construction would take too long and possibly help fewer people.

The hot rental market may be working against them, but other cities have had some success with this "rapid re-housing" concept are pricey too. They include Austin, San Francisco and New York.

"That gave us hope that we can do it here in Nashville," Dunkerly says. "It’s not going to be easy, but we are going to be hiring someone that’s just dedicated to work with landlords, all day every day."