From Couch to Home for Good I have been thinking a lot about you these past few months – even more than usual.
As Jackson Street supporters, you are the
foundation that our work rests on, relies on. But something happened to me over the holidays that made me wonder what experiences you may have had that have brought you to an understanding of personal crisis or homelessness. I had an electrical fire in my home just before Christmas, and luckily, my family and I and most of our belongings came away unscathed. But I had the opportunity—and, yes, I mean that word sincerely—to experience couch-surfing first hand. A wonderful neighbor and my sweetheart of a mother-in-law took us in, in turns. The five of us (and our dog) slept on couches and cots, and even though our hosts were as gracious as can be, we were always conscious that we had no place to call home. We tried our hardest to tread lightly on the lives of our hosts: hiding our bedding away during the day, eating out (way too much fast food—yuck!), and hanging out at coffee shops for internet service. I started to look at homelessness in a new way and saw that some of those I sit next to at a coffee shop, or walk past at a dog park, may also be struggling to manage the everyday tasks of feeding their family healthy food, finding privacy to talk over bills, and trying to keep up with school schedules and work messages. It’s harder when you don’t have a home of your own where you can regroup, recover, and relax. I now know from the heart something I thought I knew before: There isn’t a single, simple definition of homelessness – you don’t have to be sleeping under a bridge to be homeless.
So I wonder, What is your story? How have you overcome obstacles, and who helped you? How great it is to be able to pay it forward, to help our fellow community members! And it can be particularly rewarding to help youth navigate that bumpy road between adolescence and adulthood.
Thank you for not giving up on these youth – and for helping them to help themselves.
With your last donation, here is what you did for Oscar. Oscar, 17, and his mom were couch surfing, staying either with her current boyfriend or with her parents, who needed care. They were unhappy, stressed, and arguing a lot. It made things worse that Oscar was often in pain from a back disorder, scoliosis. Mom felt like it was too much for her to take care of Oscar and her parents when she was struggling just to achieve some stability for herself. Oscar needed support and was acting out, running away for a day or two then coming back. It was only a matter of time until he was either kicked out or chose to leave and live on the street. This stressed-out little family needed a break — and some help. Oscar checked into the shelter. While there, he worked with Jennifer, our Linn County Lead Case Worker, and within weeks Oscar had a mental health evaluation and consistent counseling, a dental screening and teeth cleaning, a vision appointment and new glasses. Jennifer helped begin the process of transferring his health insurance to Linn County so he could start obtaining consistent medical treatment and get a back brace to help with the scoliosis. Despite many obstacles, Oscar had already completed a GED program at the age of 16, graduating "with honors." Since he was no longer in school, Jennifer suggested that Oscar look for a volunteer position, to gain some experience and build skills. She coached him on how to write a resume and complete job applications. The goal all along was to reunite Oscar with his family at the end of three weeks. They still don’t have a permanent home; Oscar will be living in an RV
with his mother and her new boyfriend. According to Oscar, he has "learned a lot" about how to communicate with his mother and be productive in life. He says he now has goals he would like to accomplish. And with your support, we will continue to help Oscar when he leaves the shelter. He will still have access to outreach services and help from capable and caring staff members like Jennifer. When he turns 18, Oscar may be out on his own, and we hope to be able to continue to help him while he works on his goals of finding a good job and stable housing.
Many young people run away or are forced to leave their homes each year. JSYSI’s emergency shelter program provides for their immediate needs and promotes family reunification. As you probably know, with a few minor exceptions our shelter can only house youth ages 10 to 17, as required by our license from the state. But there’s nothing magic about an 18th birthday. It doesn’t make you automatically independent or selfsupporting, especially if you are still in high school. In response to growing concerns for older youth in need of housing and longer-term, supportive assistance, I’m delighted to announce that Jackson Street Youth Shelter, Inc. will be leasing an additional house to start a much-needed Transitional Living Program for older homeless youth transitioning into independent adulthood. This program will serve youth ages 18 to 20 who are working to complete their high school education or awaiting vocational, military, or college placements. Our new Transitional Living Program will include:
Safe, stable living accommodations: three bedrooms with a shared kitchen and bathroom.
Basic life-skill coaching, including consumer education and instruction in budgeting, the use of credit, housekeeping, menu planning, food preparation, parenting skills, and more.
Interpersonal skill building, including enhancing their ability to establish positive relationships with peers and adults and to make smart decisions and manage stress.
Educational opportunities, such as tutoring and homework help, GED preparation, post-secondary training, and vocational school.
Job-readiness coaching and career counseling.
Education, information, and counseling to prevent, treat, or reduce substance abuse.
Referrals to medical and mental-health care, including individual and group counseling, routine physicals, health assessments and access to dental and vision care.
JSYSI already provides many of these services to older youth through our Outreach program, but if they have no safe place to stay, our help can only go so far. But before the next school year begins, we will open “TLP House” and be able to offer longer-term transitional shelter to at least three youths over 18. Your donation directly helps each individual youth by allowing us to maintain and improve current programs and also to build new programs to fill gaps in local services. Please consider increasing your annual donation to help meet the critical needs many youth in our community face. Sincerely,
Ann P. Craig, Executive Director (Once again living in a safe space with my family – a place to call home.) P.S. Would you like to do more? JSYSI is developing a wish-list of furnishings and household items for the new TLP house, posted at www.jacksonstreet.org. Volunteers are always needed to serve as mentors, tutors, activity leaders, and skills coaches. If you are interested, contact our Community Liaison, Hannah.Miller@jsysi.org, for a volunteer application.
Your donation directly helps each individual youth by allowing us to maintain and improve current programs and also to build new programs to...